LI B RAR.Y
U N IVLRSITY
A BRILLIANT WOMAN
THE HONORABLE Mrs.H ENRY CHETWYND.
"the march violet," "SARA," "love IX A GERMAN VILLAGE,"
"A DUTCH COUSIN," ETC., STC.
IN THREE VOLUMES— \\\.
HUTCHINSON AND CO,
25 PATERNOSTER SQUARE
I'RINTKK AT MMKGl'K.N (hOI.LAND)
BY H. C A. THtEMK OK NIMKGUKN (HOLLA.Nu''
TALBOT HOUSE, AEUNUEL STREET,
I. MR. BURLINGTON'S ARRANGEMENTS AND WHAT THE
NEIGHBOURS SAID I
II. "THAT IS NOT THE LETTER I SENT YOU." 21
in. ABOUT TWO LOSSES 30
IV. DISCOVERIES 45
V. MRS. BURLINGTON EN ROUTE 5/
VI. THE TABLE D'HoTE 74
VII. OLD MR. WYNCOTE TO THE RESCUE 94
Vni. FRIENDS ? 108
rS. ALONE IN LONDON II 8
X. NEAR THE NORTH LODGE 1 33
XI. ON HER FOOTSTEPS I44
Xn. WANTED, AN ADDRESS 1 53
XIII. TOGETHER AT LAST . I70
XIV. WAS IT THE LAST OF FLORA HARRINGTON? 1 82
XV. THE MEETING OF OLD FRIENDS 200
XVI. THE CLEANING OF THE WORD " THANKFULNESS. " . . . 2 11
XVII. ABOUT A CERTAIN LUNATIC 223
XVrn. THE ATTITUDE OF THE COUNTY TOWARDS MRS. KINGSON 235
XrX. OVER THE FLOWER-BEDS 245
XX. VICTORY 258
A BRILLIANT WOMAN.
MR. BURLINGTON'S ARRANGEMENTS, AND WHAT
THE NEIGHBOURS SAID.
Mr. Burlington was at this time sincerely to be
pitied. First he discovered that he very much
cared for his wife and for her companionship just
when she left him. Next he was a typical Eng-
lishman, hating the privacy of his home to be
looked into, and his most intimate family matters
brought under discussion. He would have hated
the misfortunes or misconduct of one of his servants
becoming the topic of conversation in the neigh-
bourhood, and scandal affecting the gardener's young-
est labourer would have sensibly annoyed him.
VOL. HI. I
2 A Brilliant Wovian.
He passed many sleepless hours, and remained
quite as miserable (after tossing about all night) as
he did when he lay down to take the rest and
sleep supposed very erroneously to belong in so
particular a manner to the just.
How was he to escape the gossip this separation
would bring upon his devoted head; how arrange
matters so that his particular world should not
know how things really were ? Because when — he
never said if — his wife returned to him and to her
duty, her path must be made easy to her, and the
way left open. Scandal after her return would be
more difficult to meet and combat than even now,
when, if anything was said, it stood on the uncertain
feet of conjecture only ; nothing was really known.
There was one thing certain enough, that he
must remain away from his place, and content
himself with flying visits only, to see for himself
how all was enduring the test of his absence. And
this was exile, and extremely distasteful to him.
Mr. Burlington's Arra^igenie^its. 3
To uproot a county gentleman from his home,
his shootings, his country business, his neighbours,
and his home farm was to take much of the zest
of his life, if not the whole of it, away; and that
Mr. Burlington did uproot himself proved in a very
strong way how much he cared for his wife's posi-
tion and the sanctity of his home. Then the second
difficulty was a very real difficulty. There was the
maid — a good, steady, nice person against whom
no fault could be found, and whom his wife liked.
She belonged to the Adleyboumes' village. If
she was parted with, all manner of things might
be said. If she returned to her duties, she would
see for herself that her master and mistress were
separated, and it would be only natural that a fact
of so much importance should be told to her people.
Mrs. Burlington had already asked for her once or
twice, and the important woman who had taken
possession of the sick-room would have to go to
other — and, by her own showing, more congenial
4 A Brilliant Woman.
— duties elsewhere. Aunt Anne was always rc:idy
to console, and always more than anxious to be of
any use, but between her conscientious desire to be
quite just, her love and compassion for Cyril, and
the way in which his wife had been kept in
ignorance of what she ought to have known,
her offered sympathy was a doubtful comfort to him.
Even with her he could not discuss his wife, and
he himself imperfectly understood how he had arrived
at his present standpoint, or how criticism had
given place to an affection, the strength of which
surprised him so much. He had been able to
criticise, and he knew now that he almost loved
her faults, that he missed her and all the brightness
she had brought to his home — that, in short, he
loved her — and he could no more analyse her
motives or talk over her actions even with Aunt
Anne than he could fly.
He went every day to smoke his early cigarette
beneath his wife's windows. He seldom heard her
Mr. Burlington's Arrangements. 5
voice, and he was not much edified by the loud-
voiced, pompous utterances of Mrs. Bonthorpe, the
nurse, whom he looked upon as his natural enemy,
seeing that he always hoped that her departure
meant his wife's return to him. Mrs. Bonthorpe
was a scientifically trained nurse, an outcome of
the rage for improvement which puts a scientific
training on a substratum of innate vulgarity and
imperfect early education. Need it be said that her
talk was of duchesses ; not one of whom she probably
knew by sight, but to whom she left not a shred
of character? It was foolish to be annoyed; but
poor Mr. Burlington was annoyed when he heard
her holding forth about the position of affairs he
had done so little to bring into that state. "No
establishment! No servants! Nothing! I had to
take things in, be housekeeper, and take charge,
and do everything! I don't regret it. My last
Duchess was a little inclined to have a will of her
own, and Mrs. Burlington is a biddable sweet
6 A Brillia7ii Woman.
young person; but, dear me, I had to have my
wits about me ! I don't grudge the trouble, but
I'm sorry for the poor young thing." This was
hard on Mr. Burhngton, and the whole tone of the
woman was offensive to him. He entreated Aunt
Anne to find out what his wife's plans and wishes
were, and what could be done about the maid,
explaining what he felt to be the difficulty.
Aunt Anne saw the difficulty, but it cannot be
said that she offered any practicable solution. No
words of hers moved Maria ; she was quite resolved
not to face the neighbourhood — not to see her
husband till she could convince everyone that her
mother was not a mother to be ashamed of She
was perfectly convinced that she could trace her
mother's history and set her in fairer colours to
her husband and the world !
She would not look at any other side of the
question ; and when Aunt Anne said to her, " And
supposing, my dear, you never achieve this, are
J/r. Burlington's Arrangements. 7
you and poor Cyril to be apart all your lives;
because this is what it comes to?" she went into
an agonising pitiful state, and poor Aunt Anne
repented at once that she had put such a possi-
bilit}^ before her.
" Do not ask me any more, " pleaded Maria, with
tearless sobs, always so far more painful to hear
than an outburst of tears and loud crying. " Be-
lieve me, dear Aunt Anne, I grieve more than
Cyril can grieve ; he has been generous, most kind ;
he has nothing to look back upon which can cause
him remorse or even regret. I have." Then she
added in a low voice, " Do you not think that it
is terrible for me to have to thank God that my
child did not live? Is there any other mother so
placed, any mother like me that can say this from
her heart? Can I wish to give my children the
heritage of shame? Tell this to Cyril. He will
To this reasoning what had Aunt Anne to oppose ?
8 A Brilliant Woman.
She might think it exaggerated and feel that in
this Cyrirs happiness should be consulted, but in
her heart she gave Maria right, and Maria saw it.
In the meantime round the fair home of the
Burlingtons something, though not all he dreaded,
was actually being said. Mrs. Adleybourne did
not care for Mrs. Burlington. She had always
resented the way in which she monopolized the
people who surrounded her. It is hard for a
mother with unattractive daughters to see a bril-
liant young married woman putting them hopelessly
in the shade, and, while not a vindictive or an
untruthful woman, she acutely felt that her original
disapproval of the young wife was justified by
The wildest rumours float best on shallow streams.
Nothing was known, but everything was surmised,
and from a slight attack of nervousness to actual
insanity of an especially aggravated and violent
type, everything was believed — strait waistcoat,
Mr. Burlingtoifs Arra?ige??ic?ifs. g
padded rooms, and all else. Since the departure
of the Burlingtons the archer}- meeting, which had
generally taken place at Burlington IVIanor in turn
with the ducal residence and the Adleybourne's
place, had come altogether to be divided between
the two last places. Each Thursday saw the count}^
and a few others in their best clothes on the wide
lawn of Beau ^Nlanoir or at Leyboume.
The proximity of a ducal residence has its advan-
tages and disadvantages, like other things. It
enables the neighbours to be familiar with the
manners and customs of great people, and to see
for themselves that a well-bred duchess is simply
like everv' other well-bred English lady, and it also
enables the same country neighbours to see occa-
sionally those whose names are household words,
and who influence and control the destinies of the
human race in England and abroad. But there is
one drawback. The size of a ducal residence is
generally so great that it makes all minor resi-
lo A BrilUniif WoDuin.
dences few and far between. It is a sort of Triton
that swallows up all other smaller things, minnows
included, and when, as is sometimes the case, the
family have several places, they are too often
absent, and the huge park and great house are
more ornamental than useful.
It was, therefore, a matter for constant congra-
tulation that the Duke and Duchess lived at Beau
Manoir six months out of the twelve, that the Duke
took a very real and constant interest in county
matters, and that his view of the duties and
responsibilities of his position was to draw people
round him from the extreme ends of the county,
and allow distant neighbours who might not meet
otherwise to make acquaintance, and often friendships,
under his hospitable roof.
His best shooting was given to sportsmen who
had no shooting of their own. He never sold his
game, and he never had battues. All the game
not used in the house was given to his neighbours,
Mr. Bitrlingto7i' s Arrangements. ii
which included the poorest people on his property
and surrounding villages. It is easy to imagine
that he was beloved. The Duchess, on her side,
was one of those charming and delightful persons
who have the one great wish to make everyone
as happy as she was herself.
She was consistently cheerful, and, though she
was not boisterously gay, she was never corres-
pondingly depressed: her definition of happiness
was being able to do a kindness to any one, most
especially some one beloved. It was a notable fact
that her dislike of any ill-natured gossip was so
well known, that a story, instead of gaining wings,
lost them going up the avenue, and no one ever
ventured to repeat before her anything unkind, un-
charitable, or unjust, and as everyone wished to
please her (as a rule), and most people were a
little afraid of risking their welcome, malice was
stifled and envy and hatred hid their diminished
heads when there was the smallest risk of her
12 A Brilliant Womaii,
Grace's sharp ears overhearing their remarks. But
next in importance to the Duchess (now that the
BurUngtons were absent) came Mrs. Adleybourne,
and there were a good many people who consi-
dered that Mrs. Adleybourne did as much for those
she aifected as the Duchess herself. She gave
excellent tennis parties, and undeniable claret cup,
and she brought the right people together. These
three very distinct merits obtained a popularity for
Mrs. Adleybourne that her ill-nature hardly entitled
her to. She was a disappointed embittered woman,
and she considered that Providence had treated her
with so much unkindness that she had a real griev-
ance against it.
She had been undeniably handsome, and had
married a very plain man — an event frequent within
everyone's experience. Unfortunately, she had seven
daughters and but one son. All the daughters
were terribly plain, and were, besides, dull, hope-
lessly, helplessly, cruelly dull. They had had
Mr. Burlington's Arrangements. 13
masters and governesses, and had travelled. They
were good as gold ; but in a world that expects
to be amused they were a very distinct failure.
Now, certain things are not clearly understood
till they are accentuated and brought into strong
relief by some sudden contrast; and the Adley-
boume girls were spoken of as " dear good girls,
not very bright, you know, but awfully good," till
the advent of young Mrs. Burlington.
^Irs. Burlington, with her well-cut gowns, her
ease of manner, her individual charm, her bright-
ness, and her brilliancy, put the Adleyboume girls
at a great disadvantage, and the mother could not
help seeing it. She could not, perhaps, help re-
senting it ; and she did resent it.
The imperfectly known story of Mrs. Burling-
ton's journey south came as a drop of balm to her
perturbed spirit. She immediately anticipated the
worst, and, anticipating it, announced it as an
14 A Brilliant IVowa;/.
" I for one am not surprised, though I am of
course grieved," she said, in answer to a remark
about the strangeness of the sudden departure from
Burlington Manor ; " there were always a strange-
ness and a wildness and a something in Mrs. Bur-
lington's eyes that made me very unhappy. I grieve
for him ; poor dear fellow. "
" Those very brilliant eyes do not always be-
token mental vigour," said Mrs. Burton, who had a
neutral tone of voice, who generally dealt in aphor-
isms, and was without special enthusiasm herself in
" Well, I confess there was always something that
made me uncomfortable. Men are so blind that
they cannot perceive that that brilliancy they so
much admire is not a lasting quality : it always be-
tokens cerebral excitement. If in these high pres-
sure days a girl happens to be modest and quiet
and unassuming, she is passed over."
" It is unhappily true ; the days of the violets are
Mr. Burliiigton' s Arrangements. 15
over. Then that play — graceful if you like, and the
dancing, but — if I had daughters I should not have
cared for the abandon. There was a want of
reserve about it altogether."
" There was a want of discretion in the whole
thing to my mind. I hate your showy people!"
" And, " continued Mrs. Burton, in her most mo-
notonous voice, "why should the Burlingtons be
exempted from all the evils of the common lot?
What unmingled prosperity has been theirs ! Riches,
and good health, and good looks — not that I appre-
ciate good looks so much as many people, perhaps.
Well, such prosperity must have a check. I am
sorry for him, truly sorry. What is her illness, dear
Mrs. Adleyboume ? "
"Something on the brain, I believe. Her maid
lives in our village, and she says so little, and is
so very mysterious, that one cannot help fearing
the worst. Besides, if it is an ordinary illness, why
is the maid not there?"
1 6 A Bnlliant Woman.
" Ah, then it is insanity, " said Mrs. Burton com-
fortably, with all the resignation with which we
consign our neighbours to endure any sort of ill.
" Well, it is against the rules of Providence that
any family should for so many decades have a run
of unmingled prosperity," said Mrs. Adleybourne,
repeating Mrs. Burton's words unconsciously.
" Is she very violent ? Have you heard any par-
ticulars ? Can you give me any details ? " and Mrs.
Burton drew nearer and lowered her voice. " Not
from curiosity, you know; but because I am so
intensely interested. Shall we ever see those poor
things among us again?"
"I know really very little. We must hope for
the best, " said Mrs. Adleybourne in rather a stately
way. She was offended because of that " we "
slipped in by Mrs. Burton, considering herself several
grades above her, her husband having a place
—and a fine place— and Mrs. Burton being, so to
say, on sufferance only, the wife of a professional
Mr. Burlington's Arrangements, 17
man, with no place to speak of. Mrs. Burton rose
and went off to compassionate " those poor Burling-
tons " to other people ; for it may be remarked that
nothing gives a greater sense of equality than being
able to commiserate your social superior. Through-
out the assembled party this was the ke3"note on
which and from which every sort of air was played,
with major or minor variations. By degrees people
got unguarded, and the Duchess caught a few words
and moved among her guests, vexed and on the
" You are talking of the Burlingtons, " she said,
in her soft soprano, to Mrs. Adleyboume. " You
will be glad to hear that Mr. Burlington was able
to send such a good account of Mrs. Burlington
this morning. She is so much better! "
" I am very glad, indeed, " said Mrs. Adleybourne
after a momentary pause. It is not easy to turn
one's mind from one direction to another without a
significant stop. These mental feats require a pivot
VOL. III. 2
1 8 A Brilliant Woina7i. \
of some sort. "But do the doctors think the im- j
provement will last?"
Her tone was peculiar, and the Duchess, who had :
never heard any exaggerations, did not understand !
exactly what she meant.
" When doctors agree that all danger is over, one
is justified in feeling hopeful," she answered. "In
these mental cases, so often, relapses are the rule — j
not the exception." ■
" One can hardly call Mrs. Burlington's a mental '
case," answered the Duchess pleasantly. "I think j
you must have heard an exaggerated account of j
her illness. May I ask what you have heard ? "
" Insanity was spoken of. "
" Insanity ! How terrible a thing. I am so very
glad you have told me. No; Mrs. Burlington has
had typhoid fever, which was bad enough. She was
delirious, the fever went to the brain — not a very
uncommon thing ; but she is getting quite well, and
is going abroad for change soon."
Mr. Burlington's Arrangements. 19
Mrs. Adleybourne waved her head gently to and
fro, as one who should say, " That is an imperfect
edition. I know more." The Duchess looked grave;
she considered that she had said enough, and that
Mrs. Adleybourne should be convinced.
"Mine is good authority," she said rather coldly.
"Very good authority, Duchess. But why is her
maid here and not there?"
" A young maid, and probably unaccustomed to
llness, is not as good as a professional nurse.
However, I hope you will tell the truth to any one
who has a wrong version. You know, dear Mrs.
Adleybourne, as well as I do, that these rumours
are often carelessly started, and do harm. I am
sure you will help me to let everyone know the
These words, uttered in her most winning man-
ner, completed Mrs. Adleybourne's conversion.
"You may rely upon me. Duchess," she said,
and she meant it.
20 A Brtlliafit Woman.
This was why Mrs. Burton, a Httle later on, was
snubbed by Mrs. Adleyboume for having enlarged
a little upon the original suggestion. Much annoyed,
Airs. Burton not very unnaturally turned upon her,
as worms are said to turn. " You said so yourself! "
she said, with some heat.
"I said so? No! pray, do not think so badly of
me, dear Mrs. Burton ! To suggest a thing as pos-
sible is one thing, to assert it as a fact is another.
I merely suggested it. You understand?"
" Yes ; I understand, " said Mrs. Burton meekly,
which, all the same, is exactly what she did not do !
"THAT IS NOT THE LETTER I SENT YOU."
Whatever neighbours in the country might say
or do, the solution of the problem regarding his
wife's conduct remained unsolved as far as Mr. Bur-
lington was concerned.
Why, now the whole story of her mother's past
was known to her, she should persistently refuse
to see him, puzzled him beyond conception. For
he considered that the whole story was known. He
could understand her dislike to facing the country
neighbours. She had held her head high, and she
would find it difficult at first to accept a lower level
2 2 A Brilliant Woman.
than the one she had placed herself upon. And yet
his knowledge of her character led him to expect
her to take this whole unfortunate business differently,
and to carry everything off with a high hand. If
there was humiliation she was he considered the
very last person to allow it, or to betray any mortifi-
cation. She would be more consistently herself by
ignoring either the one or the other, and not allowing
any one to credit her with even knowing of any
reason for the least change in her demeanour.
But, however wrong his conclusions might be, he
had believed that the increasing affection for her
he was himself conscious of, was not upon his side
only. Those little trifles, which are of no importance
in themselves, and yet which become important if
studied by the light of after events, showed him an
attention to his tastes and his wishes, a desire to
please him, which could have but one meaning.
After all, he might worry his brain and torment
himself to all eternity. There was only one way of
" That is not the Letter I sent you. " 23
knowing; his wife alone could explain all. His notes
were unanswered, his messages unheeded; and he
did not know what to think or what course to
To throw prudence to the winds, march in upon
her, and, taking her by surprise, ask her what she
meant, what he had done; this naturally was a
solution of the difficulty which commended itself to
him. But in the face of the doctor's earnest warnings
against any undue excitement as fatal to his wife's
perfect restoration to health and strength, he put
his convictions upon one side, and remained sub-
Several duchesses having (according to her own
showing) clamoured for the pompous "Gamp," she
departed, and then Cyril learned from Aunt Anne
that his wife's one wish was to go to the seaside, and
to go, alone if possible, abroad.
Aunt Anne could not bear to tell him of Maria's
feverish anxiety to put the sea between him and
24 A Brilliant Woman.
herself, and of her plans, which to her, poor lady,
sounded so wild and impracticable. She never be-
lieved in their assuming any shape, and looked upon
everything as simply talk.
But one day a letter was given into her hand,
and the letter enclosed one to Cyril from his wife.
" I have gone, " she said. " I have left England to
trace my mother. I do not believe she is dead. I
have a clue. If a day comes when I can clear her
name, and stand before you on the footing of other
wives, I will so stand. I have felt very bitterly the
silence that followed my appeal to you. It was written
when I was most terribly unhappy, and perhaps
looked unreal and exaggerated to you, but I felt
every word. The silent scorn with which you treated
my letter has nearly killed me. But I am not
ungrateful. You have been generous and kind in
many things, and you were deceived. We both
have much to forgive Mrs. Kingson."
It was signed, " Your true wife. "
" That is not the Letter I sent you. " 25
She had gone. Her room was empty; she had
taken the barest necessaries with her and very
little money; he was afraid. There was no way of
tracing her; she had walked out of the house, and
in which direction she had gone who could say ?
Aunt Anne completely lost patience with her.
Mrs. Kingson, when she came to know of her
flight, abused her in unmeasured terms.
Mr. Burlington took those few lines to Mr. King-
son, and asked him plainly what she meant. " What
letter does she refer to ? " he asked. " This is not
the first time she has spoken of an unanswered appeal."
Before Mr. Kingson could remind him of the
enclosure he had himself forwarded, Mrs. Kingson,
who was always in a fever when the subject of
the letter was touched upon, uttered a loud scream,
startling both men. " Cramp ! " she called out ;
" Cramp ! Get me something hot ! "
She was a long time recovering, and lay on the
sofa, holding the hand of her sympathetic husband,
26 A Brilliant Woman.
and was finally persuaded to go to her own room,
satisfied that all danger was over for the time.
But Mr. Kingson was a man of tenacious memory.
He sympathised very thoroughly with Mr. Burling-
ton's position, and considered that his niece was
behaving very badly; and when the episode of the
cramp was over, he went back to the library, pre-
pared to allow the husband to talk upon the all-
engrossing subject to him, and counsel him to the
best of his ability.
" You were asking me when my poor wife had
that horrid attack of cramp about my letter to you. "
"Not so much about your letter to me, but of
what my wife calls her appeal to me. What appeal
does she refer to ? "
" I fancy, the letter I enclosed to you. "
" There was no enclosure. "
The two men looked straight in each other's faces.
" I enclosed a letter from her. I put it inside
mine before I sealed it."
" That is not the Letter I sent you. " i-j
"Your letter had no enclosure."
" Well, it must have dropped out as you opened it. "
" That is impossible, because I opened it at the
study table. You remember I was with the Beryls,
and came back at once."
" This is very serious, " said Mr. Kingson. " Have
you got my letter?"
" Yes ; I have not destroyed it. If you like I
will bring it to you to show you. But there was
Mr. Kingson was called away for a few moments,
and Mr. Burlington sat waiting for his return.
As he sat there it seemed to him so strange to
see, as he did, his wife's presence vividly before
him, and to know that they were so hopelessly
apart at present. He could see her once again
standing up against the dark oak carving, and all
her graceful attitudes as she decked the room with
flowers. How the sunrays had touched the ruddy
gold of her hair, and how she had dazzled and
28 A Bnlliaiit Woman.
charmed him by her pretty ways, and the briUiancy
of her colouring, and her smile. And yet how far
far less dear she had been to him then than she was
now that she seemed to have slipped out of his life.
Where was the cold criticism he had then in-
dulged in ? The prosaic future he had planned had
vanished; he knew now it could not content him.
He knew now that in the ever changing brilliant
figure in which he had once found no repose, lay
a charm for him without which his life would not
be worth much to him, and he was filled with deep
regrets for the loss of those peculiarities which are
so little understood by many people, w^ho see a
definite merit in monotony, and something absolutely
wrong in originality. For there are many men
who admire, some few who love a girl for possess-
ing characteristics opposite to their own ; follow a
natural law, and marry them, and then never rest
happy till they have done their utmost to level them
down to a family standard and destroy the very
" That is not the Letter I sent you. " 29
essence of what attracted them at first. They do
not understand that the happiest married Hves are
not when people marry who have what is prosaic-
ally put as having " much in common, " but where
the character of the one supplements the deficiencies
of the other, and where love and admiration go
Mr. Burlington did not notice that Mr. Kingson
was some time absent, but when he came back the
two walked together through the park and across
Kensington Gardens to Mr. Burlington's residence.
When the letter was produced Mr. Kingson
changed colour, and spoke with some difiiculty.
" This is the only communication you had ? "
" The only one. I fancied it was Mrs. Kingson's
writing, not yours, till you undeceived me."
"The letter is not mine," said Mr. Kingson.
" That is not the letter I sent you, with poor Maria's
enclosed. I never saw that letter before ! "
ABOUT TWO LOSSES.
Mrs. Kingson was still lying on her sofa when
her husband returned. She had been all this time
lulled into a false security. As the days passed
on she had told herself that all was right and all
w^ould be right, and had dismissed as much as
possible the whole idea of discovery from her mind.
But, however blunt a conscience may be, there
is an uncomfortable sense of a wrong committed
which may or may not be always before one, but which
is always there as a black shadow, suggesting a
possible check to otherwise fortuitous plans. And
About two Losses. 31
it happened now, as it probably has often happened
before, that Mrs. Kingson could not see the strong
reasons for her action now which she had seen at
What had possessed her to do such a thing ?
Why had she burdened her conscience with an
action dishonourable and base, such as she recognized
this action was ?
Trite maxims about repentance did not come to
her, and in one sense there was no repentance now.
But she hated having a haunting, uncomfortable
feeling, and dreaded detection. She had often planned
things, and her glib tongue had slipped out many
untrue versions of those things to gain her end ;
but a deed like this she had never done before,
and she reflected that if this act was found out she
might be suspected of many more. When Mr.
Kingson appeared, he luckily or unluckily asked
her a question, and she answered it at once — with
32 A Brilliant Woman.
" Did you write to Mr. Burlington, Maria ?" her
husband asked. " I mean when all came out. "
" Of course I did. You wrote, also ; did you
"Then where was the use of your writing?"
" Because I was afraid you might put it too
strongly; I wished much to keep things smooth."
"I wish you had left it alone."
" Why ? You never would believe me ; you never
thought me in the right, but one woman knows
another woman best. I always warned you that it
would be fatal telling Maria. You never will be
guided by me. You took your own way. What is
the consequence ?"
She made rather a strong point here, and she
was fully aware of it.
"A very disagreeable thing has happened. My
letter, which contained a letter from Maria to her
husband, never reached him." He looked eagerly
at her. (Mrs. Kingson was conscious of increased
About two Losses. 33
discomfort.) " The loss of that letter is at the bottom
of all this miserable business. She would not see
him because it was an appeal, and he never answered
it. It is terribly unfortunate."
" Very unfortunate. " Mrs. Kingson spoke in a
low voice which sounded sympathetic to her hus-
" Did Maria think, was she certain, that her
husband got her letter ?"
"Yes, poor thing! That is the worst part. She
asked me over and over again whether I had sent
her letter. We have been at wretched cross purposes
from end to end. I knew I had sent her letter,
and I kept always saying so."
" How unfortunate ! " repeated Mrs. Kingson.
" I even asked Burlington whether he had got
my letter, and he said yes; that is, he thought it
was from you ; was it not from you ? Not knowing-
you had written, I said, ' Oh no, it was from me. '
Now Maria has gone, how can we tell her? "
VOL. III. 3
34 A Brilliant Woman.
Mr. Kingson was so put out and so unhappy
that Mrs. Kingson wished more than ever that she
had left things alone.
But she had not the courage to confess now;
and the mischief was done, and could not be undone.
To turn the subject, which was so painful to her,
she asked what Maria's plans were, if any one
" All we know is that she wants to find her mother.
The wildest idea. Then she wants to clear her
"A still wilder idea," said Mrs. Kingson, severely.
" I do not agree with you, " answered her husband,
gravely. " I myself think that much in her story sup-
posed to be against her might bear a different
"What is she like?" asked Mrs. Kingson, sud-
"How can I tell? If she is alive now, she must
be much changed. She was the most beautiful
Abotit two Losses. 35
woman I ever saw, and the most graceful. I never
fully believed in her going wrong," he added, with
much emotion. " Her whole nature must have
changed if it was so."
"Her being the most beautiful woman you ever
saw is not exactly a description of her personal
appearance," said Mrs. Kingson, a little offended
with her husband. "Was she like Maria?"
" Yes and no. Not nearly so tall, but with the same
sort of eyes, and a flitting colour very like poor Ma-
ria's. You remember how her colour came and went
in old days. Now she has hardly any colour at all. "
" After an illness you cannot expect it, " said his
wife, who, since she had done Maria an injustice,
felt something of dislike towards her, and who at
any rate had more than her share of feminine indif-
ference where the loss of beauty in another woman
was in question.
She feigned fatigue ; she had a great deal to think
over and to plan out.
36 A Brilliant Woman.
Mr. Kingson went to write to the butler at Bur-
lington. It was important that that letter should
be found, and he begged that search should be
made, and that inquiries at the post-offices at each
end between the manor and the Beryls' place might
be made at once also.
Alone, Mrs. Kingson closed her eyes, and tried
to see what could be done.
Her first idea, dismissed at once, was to get
access in some way to Mr. Burlington's clothes and
slip that letter into one of the pockets. vShe never
had been in such a dilemma before. What had
Then a sudden thought made her forget her
headache and fatigue, and all else. She rose up
with a celerity in marked contrast with her previous
languor ; she locked her door, and going to a writ-
ing desk she hunted through the contents with so
much excitement that she missed what she wanted
to find for a long time.
About two Losses. ^y
She rang for her maid. Then she remembered
something else she wished to do, sent her maid for
some tea, and began to hunt once more among
her papers for the famous letter addressed to Mr.
But she hunted in vain; she got cold and hot
and most wretched. She tried to remember how
she had stood and where she had stood when she
had changed the letters.
Her memory was a blank about everything except
the act she now so bitterly regretted. She tried to
remember how she was dressed, and she could not
remember even that; and by the time her maid
brought her some tea she was sorely in need of it,
and she drank it with feverish haste.
Then, saying that she would go for a short walk
and try to get rid of her headache, she put on her
thickest veil, and left the room.
Her maid, who suffered at times from her capri-
cious temper, watched her going downstairs. She
38 A Brilliant Woman.
knew quite well something unusual was in the way,
for, if a man can never be "a hero to his valet, **
it is equally certain that a woman can seldom deceive
her maid, who generally knows exactly what reasons
there are for peculiar lines of conduct.
For instance, Mrs. Kingson never took her purse
with her when she went out walking. It enabled
her to say truthfully if asked for charity by a beggar
that she had " nothing" with her. To-day she took
her purse. This was a significant fact.
Nothing is stranger — if we could only see the
process it would be a wonderful sight — than the
way in which the threads of our complex lives are
being spun by hands we never take into account
at all. Mr. Kingson and Mr. Burlington, their
wives, and Flora Harrington were all apparently
going their several ways, and yet all were working
towards one centre, and bringing the various threads
together quite unconsciously. But Mrs. Burlington
lost courage that day, and came home, giving up
About two Losses. 39
what she wanted to do. Mr. Buriington had set in
motion every conceivable way of tracing his wife,
and also was following up a slender clue, hoping
to find her mother if alive, or to know what her
fate had been.
He had done as he imagined everything possible
without publicity, and suffered now from that dull
sense of inability to do more that succeeds exertion.
Afterwards he accused himself of intense stupidity,
of inconceivable negligence, but that was when
quite unexpectedly Mr. Wyncote gave the clue he
might have given from the very first, had any one
thought of applying to him.
It is always easy to speak philosophically of
trouble, and to express conviction that if religion
does not, assist one the study of Hebrew or abstruse
mathematical studies are an unfailing remedy for
mental anxiety. There are anxieties beyond the
reach of either Hebrew or the differential calculus.
Mr. Burlington tried to read, and found it useless.
40 A Brilliant Woman.
After years of almost monotonous tranquillity and
placid content, he had gone through many varied
experiences in eighteen months; and yet he could not
wish the old life back now. Always before him
was the mocking, laughing, brilliant face, the per-
sonality which had touched a dull house with radiance,
and had given life a charm and zest it had not
before. As he sat pondering and debating what
he could do next, there was an arrival, and Mr.
Kingson, extremely ruffled, and looking quite un-
like himself, walked into the room.
" The most disagreeable thing has happened, " he
said ; " come with me. I have to go to the police
at once. "
"What is wrong?" asked Mr. Burlington, only
too much pleased to have his thoughts forcibly
taken off the incessant anxiety of his present posi-
tion, and rapidly getting into his coat.
"My wife's maid — poor soul! she is in a dreadful
distress about it ! — was bringing my wife's travelling-
About two Losses. 41
bag from King's Cross to Victoria by underground,
and one or two boxes. My wife drove home and
left her to do this. Looking out of the window at
some station, she saw one of the boxes put out,
evidently by mistake, and she unwisely jumped out
to tell the guard to put it back. Before she could
regain the carriage the train was off, and in the
carriage remained the travelling-bag! "
" I hope there was not much in it. "
" A great deal too much ! Two or three bank-
notes for ^5 or ^10, some of her diamonds, a
cheque-book, and other things of value. It is
dreadfully provoking. "
The two men went off to Scotland Yard; bills
were printed; a reward offered; and ever)rthing
possible was done at once.
During the next few days the number of people
interviewed, the consultations with the police, and
the discussion about this loss occupied a good deal
42 A Brilliant Woman.
In the middle of all this excitement Mr. Bur-
lington received a letter from home, forwarded by
It had been sent to the Beryls' place, and stated
that a letter for him had been found, and would
be delivered up on payment of a small reward " to
cover expenses. "
Little dreaming of the importance of this letter.
Air. Burlington laughed about it with Mr. Kingson,
saying how strange it was that they should both
be mixed up with missing property at the same
time, and he proposed to go to the place named
to claim his letter early next morning. Mrs. King-
son was not alarmed. She did not at the moment
connect it with her own dealings. It had occurred
to her suddenly that the missing letter might have
been in the pocket of a dress she had disliked and
had given to her maid, and that her maid might
have sold it, and she had started with the idea of
going to the woman who bought these things to
About hvo Losses. 43
find out. But she had never seen her, and she was
afraid of rousing any suspicions in the woman's mind.
She contented herself by saying diplomatically to
the maid in question, " Have you had any successful
dealings with IMadame Marie lately ? "
** No, ma'am. "
" Oh, I am rather glad, as I was afraid I had
left a memorandum in the pocket of one o thef
dresses I gave you."
"There was nothing that I saw, ma'am, or I
should have brought it to you."
She did not add " I got a better bargain from
an old Jew, " but she did say " I sold the things to
a respectable person in the city."
Then Mrs. Kingson knew that the letter, that
letter, was the one in question.
Just as she was turning over in her own mind
how to get there also, her husband came to tell
her he had just heard from the same place, and
that her bag and jewels were found.
44 ^ Br i Ilia?? I JFoma?/.
Mrs. Kingson's excitement was great. She had
a faint hope that in the larger matter and the inte-
rest it would create in her husband's mind the let-
ters would sink into insignificance. But the hope
was very faint, and she was wretched!
It is impossible to describe ^Irs. Kingson's state of
mind. She saw before her the whole of her after
relations with her husband endangered, and she was
completely hopeless. Discovery stared her in the
face. Usually, she was a person who saw many
ways out of a difficulty, but she saw no way now.
She thought till her brain grew weary; and every-
thing came round to the same conclusion; all was
over, and her sin had found her out.
Her misery was so great that she was passive
now. She sat in a hansom beside Mr. Burlington
46 A Brilliant Wo7nan.
stupefied and silent, and he was grateful to her;
for in the silent hours when the brains grows clearer
there had rushed upon him quickly a hope that
the letter he was going to retrieve might be the
missing one from his wife. He could understand
nothing of it all, but he hoped in the vague way
in which we do hope against hope, that a solution
of his difficulties was beginning to be found.
As they drove along, each thing they passed was
noted by both, as trifles impress themselves upon
the brain at solemn and peculiarly trying moments
to our own infinite amazement afterwards. The great
things in life are often remembered with a certain
indistinctness, but little things — the position of a
window-curtain, the arrangement of bits of china,
a coarsely coloured print in a shop window — these
small insignificant things remain with us, and stand
out clearly, when all else is forgotten.
Past many dingy streets, redolent of stale tobacco
smoke, and the vegetable refuse left after the morning
stalls had been cleared away, and then the
cab stopped. Down a narrow alley, gathering
her skirts closely around her, Mrs. Kingson followed
Mr. Burlington, and was in her turn followed by
Mr. Archer, the detective, a very important man,
but shrewd and experienced.
Skirts of old dresses, old coats, cloaks, and clocks
struggled for place on overcrowded pegs and
shelves. The counter of the little dingy shop they
were in search of was loaded with oddments, from
gridirons and flat irons to mended china, this last
alone keeping a look of better days. A ver}^ dirty
man, whose sole remaining eye seemed perpetually
searching for the one that had gone; a still dirtier
woman with the hopeless, tired look gin bestows as
much as opium upon its victims, stood expectant,
hiding their fears behind a sort of dogged, obsti-
"Your pleasure?" said the man, surlily.
" I received this letter yesterday, " said Mr. Bur-
48 A Brilliant IVomajt,
lington, holding- up the letter in his hand. " T have
come to answer it in person."
"Are you alone?"
"No. You can see I have others with me."
"What will you give me for the letter?"
"I cannot say till T have seen it."
"And the jewels! Let me see them, let me see
my bag!" broke in Mrs. Kingson.
Here Archer stepped forw^ard. " It is right and
better you should know I am a detective from
Scotland Yard. I know you both. I think you
know me. Produce the jewels, the letter, and every-
thing else at once, and account for having them
in your possession." The woman brazened out
everything; the man turned white with fear. Sul-
lenly he produced the bag, and emptied the con-
tents upon the counter. Everything was there, but
"All is here but the letter" said Mr. Archer,
after having heard from Mrs. Kingson that every-
thing was intact. " Produce the letter at once."
" The letter was not in the bag. " mumbled the
old man. " It was in the pocket of the maid's gown. "
Dirty from its strange vicissitudes, and much
crumpled, it was given reluctantly to Archer, who
looked at it and handed it to Mr. Burlington. It
was Mr. Kingson's missing letter. Mr. Burlington
put his purse into Archer's hands and retreated to
the doorway, where by the uncertain flare and flicker
of the gas-jet he read in anxious haste his wife's
appeal. Then he understood something of what she
must have felt at its having been left unanswered.
And a burning indignation against those who had
worked this wrong filled him. He stood passive,
waiting till his business was over, till he could get
away, with the feeling that in purer air, perhaps,
he could understand better.
In a lady's maid's gown! How did it get there?
The seal was intact. Had it been sent irregularly
to the post, and forgotten?
VOL. III. 4
50 A Brilliant Woma?z.
Placing it inside his coat, he turned once more
towards the counter, where Mrs. Kingson and Archer
were finally arranging everything. It struck him
that Mrs. Kingson looked very white, but until now
not the faintest suspicion had come to him that she
was connected with the disappearance of that letter.
Until now. But at that moment Archer was
insisting upon proof, insisting that the lady's maid's
gown was to be produced. The woman retreated
to the back room, and, after some delay, she re-ap-
peared, holding in her arms a silk gown degraded
from its high estate, a gown he had seen Mrs. King-
son wear often.
Even then he did not suspect her, but she had
by this time lost her nerve, and everything else;
the close atmosphere of the little place, the closer
smell of gas and of old clothes, made her really
faint; and, catching hold of his arm, she made her
way into the air, and hurried along the narrow
street, and to the cab, where she crept into a cor-
Discoveries. 5 1
ner, and, covering her face with her hands, she
said in a voice broken by sobs, as soon as they
had started, " Do not condemn me unheard ! "
"Condemn you, Mrs. Kingson?"
"That letter. I kept it back!"
" What was your motive?"
"I wanted to put things before you differently.
My husband speaks so bluntly. I was afraid . . . . "
He could hardly credit his ears! Was it possible
that she had done so great a wrong, and from so
small a motive?
She sobbed unrestrainedty for some time. Then
she said, "Was it so important? Have I done
very great harm?"
^' You have nearly ruined two lives, " he said,
'• you have made me miserable, and you have
driven my poor wife from home."
"I never thought" — she began.
Something in his face stopped her, and she sank
back frightened and ashamed. She had but one
••'^'^f '^SfTY OF
52 A Brilliant IVoman.
thought now; she must throw herself upon his
mercy; her husband must never know.
" Mr. Burlington, I have done very, very wrong,
but my motive was good."
He turned round in surprise. Was she going to
apologize? Did she expect him to forget all the
cruel wrong she had done? What was she going
With real and unfeigned misery she clasped her
hands together, and her tears nearly choked her.
"If my husband comes to know all will be over
Then he knew what she wanted him to do — to
If he spoke and told how she had acted what
good would it do ? Yet he had to struggle against
the wish to bring home to her something of the
sorrows she had brought upon his wife and himself.
But he was a man capable of generosity. The
struggle lasted but a short time.
Turning so that he could see her face, he said,
shortly, " My advice to you, Mrs. Kingson, is to
confess to your husband — to tell him everything.
A secret is an ugly thing between husband and
wife. As regards myself, I will never tell him.
" Hush ! " he exclaimed, as incoherent and passionate
expressions of gratitude broke from her, "I must,
on my side, make conditions. I want to know
what arguments you used to induce my wife to
marry me ; I want to know how much truth lay in
the statements you made me; I want to know
everything. I want the whole truth, and nothing
else. You owe me something. I claim this from
you as my right."
" It is your right, " said the subdued woman ; " ask
me anything. I promise to tell you the exact truth !"
"Quite plainly, and with no embellishments?"
She repeated his words. Her misery had been
so deep that her relief was proportionately great.
" You told me, Mrs. Kingson, that my wife had
54 --"^ Brilliant Woman.
fallen in love with me, that she loved me with a
passion generally inspired by younger men. I
believed you against my own conviction, against my
better judgment. I found out that I had been
deceived. My wife, thank God for it, is truthful
she owned the truth to me. That lie — I must speak
plainly! — made me propose to her. What argu-
ments did you use with her?"
" I said you loved her ; but . . . that you would
never propose to her (we all thought you were not
a marrying man!). Then Maria wanted to prove
that I was wrong, and that everybody was wrong . ."
" I see you played upon her weakness, and upon
mine. But what made you so anxious to marry
her? She is unusually brilliant, and very lovely,
and was much admired."
" Her story, " she whispered, in a very low voice,
« and "
"The whole truth without embellishment," he
" Oh, it is hard to drag all my motives to light,
but there are my girls. They were growing up;
they will soon be out. "
" I understand now, " he said ; " she had to be
got out of the way. "
He spoke no more; he dropped her at her own
door, and went home. He denied himself to every
one except Aunt Anne, and he simply told her that
the letter poor ]\Iaria had talked of had been for-
warded from the Beryls to Burlington, and on to
him, and that he could not wonder at her indigna-
tion in receiving no reply.
"In every line she shows that I have won her
heart, " he said, with a depth of feeling she knew
betrayed his fervent conviction. " I do not believe
that with so much happiness before us this separa-
tion will last long. "
Mr. Kingson was so much occupied with the
recovery of his wife's jewels, and her account of
the den of thieves, that the letter passed completely
56 A Brilliant Woman.
out of his thoughts, and he did not ask a single
question about it, which was a great reHef to Mrs.
Kingson. All the same, she had forfeited Mr. Bur-
lington's respect, and she was very miserably aware
MRS. BURLINGTON EN ROUTE.
Nothing was further from Maria's intentions than
to do anything that might vex, worry, or annoy
her husband; only it never occured to her to con-
sult him. Weakened by illness, and terribly hurt
by the discoveries she had made, she was literally
unable to see his side of the question at present.
She imagined that he did not really love her; how
could he ? She had been placed in so horribly humili-
ating a position that she could not face him, or
anyone who knew her story. She must go away
and give him, at any rate, freedom from her presence.
58 A Brilliant Woman.
She made no definite plans. Though she spoke
of tracing her mother — and intended to do it — she
had all the hopelessness about this at times that she
had about other things. But, though her mother
might not be alive, she had a conviction that if all
her story was told it would be proved that she had
not been the faithless wife she was supposed to have
been, and if she could make this clear, and that
her husband would recognize the fact, her own
position would be different; she would in that case
not be ashamed to look anyone in the face.
The crossing once over, she began to realize the
distance between herself and all she cared for. Then
she recognized what she had done, and her heart
sank, and at that moment she would gladly and
thankfully have returned — not to her husband, per-
haps, but to England at once.
She had taken a courier-maid with her and her
intention was to go to Angers, to the convent where
her mother had been educated, and to trace anything
Mrs, Burlington en Route. 59
she could of her mother's family from that place.
She barely remembered her mother. Her recollec-
tion was of a sweet, bright face, often covered with
tears, it is true, but at times laughing, and always
playing with her. And she got confused, never
feeling sure whether her recollection was of her
mother or her nurse.
In Paris how full her heart was! How it all
reminded her of her mortification when she disco-
vered her husband's attainments. She thought so
tenderly of him now; his unfailing patience and
goodness where so many men would have been the
reverse. In later days, since her illness at Burling-
ton, he had shown her more affection; they had
appeared to be beginning to understand each other
better. Flora's faults enhanced her husband's merits.
The six hours it took to get them to Angers
were weary ones to her. She weighed over and
over again in her mind how she could let her hus-
band and Aunt Anne know she was well without
6o A BrilHant Woviaii.
betraying her whereabouts. She must try to remove
the stigma from her mother which shadowed her
love. She had always the intense dread of a possi-
bility if she returned. She looked forward with
horror to the chance of children who would have
to be ashamed of her birth and her parentage.
This thought spurred her on, and clinched her deter-
mination when it threatened to falter.
In the pleasant town of Angers, in sight of the
blue line on the horizon of the hills of La Vendee,
Mrs. Burlington established herself vShe chose a
quiet hotel at the top of the hill. There were
homeliness and a look of comfort about it, and it
stood back from the road with a poplar tree in front
that had been allowed to grow up as nature intended
it to do, in striking contrast with the lopped and
pruned trees everywhere else in that garden of France.
It was with a thrill that she saw the convent in
the distance, and reflected on all she hoped to establish
during her visit there.
Mrs. Burlington en Route. 6i
The table d'hote was rather a trial to her. For
the first time in all her life she had to face it alone,
and she was relieved to find how few it consisted
of — some eight or nine people, all a little curious,
but apparently too hungry to exhibit their curiosity
or satisfy it.
How strange it was to see them bending over
their food and eating as if they had hardly a moment
to spare. All at once she started, for a nasal voice
asked her a question. At first she hardly realized
that she was the person addressed, but when she
heard her own name she no longer could doubt.
" I say, Mrs. Burlington, are you a stranger here ;
do you come for pleasure or business?"
Looking up, she saw a tall, rather angular lady
staring intently at her from the opposite side of the
table. She was evidently an American.
"Do we not all travel for pleasure?" Mrs. Bur-
lington said, coldly.
"Now, that's a kind of put me off. Well, if you
62 A Brilliant Woman.
don't wish to tell, never mind. But if it's for pleasure
I guess this hotel is not the one I would choose."
" Is there anything wrong with it ? "
" Wall, there's no coats, and without coats, to my
mind, there's no society, and certainly no pleasure.
I'm frank, you see ! "
"Yes; I see."
" I'm Lavinia Jemima Stocks, from New York city.
I'm not ashamed of my name, my country, or my
She looked a little defiantly at Mrs. Burlington,
and went on after a moment's pause, " My father's
a dry goods store, and I keep the books when I'm
at home, and I do something else."
"Oh!" said Mrs. Burlington.
" Wall, what's your profession ? "
"I have no profession."
"No! Do you do nothing?"
"You are right, I am afraid; I do nothing."
" But you're married ; where's your husband ? "
Mrs. Burlingto7i en Route. 63
" At home," Mrs. Burlington answered, and little
understood Miss Lavinia Stocks if she imagined that
in returning these very short answers in a dignified
manner she was likely to be freed from her persistent
"If your husband's at home he does something.
What does he do; has he a store?"
" Good gracious, no, " said Mrs. Burlington, un-
"There's no need to have a scare about a store.
It's a very paying thing. Well, then ... I know
what he does. He draws teeth!"
This was too much for Mrs. Burlington, she burst
"Wall — you needn't laugh. If your teeth are
your own they're good ones. Are you ashamed of
what he does? I very nearly married a dentist
myself, but — he concluded w^hen he got older he
wouldn't take the blame of me."
" My husband has property. He looks after those
64 ^ Brilliant Woma?i.
things country gentlemen do look after in England. "
" I see ; one of those everlasting swells that make
a general muss of everything, and call it county
Mrs. Burlington was too angry to answer her.
" Wall, there's no cause to look high. We Amur-
ricans know that everything is pretty much in a
muss in England. If you want to have good work
done you must pay for it; that's my maxim. Wall
— I suppose you've had a quarrel with him, and
you're taking the air abroad till your temper's in
harness again?" This was too much.
Mrs. Burlington, who required nothing more,
rose with a slight bow generally to those present
and went out of the room, followed by a loud laugh
from Miss Lavinia Stocks; and as she left she heard
her say, "She's mighty high, but I hit the right
knob on the head that time."
In her own room she shed tears of mortification.
Was this wh.at she had laid herself open to? Sepa-
Mrs, Burlington en Route. 65
ration ! She had never called her step by that name !
And quarrel . . . How could she quarrel with Cyril,
who had borne and forborne so patiently? The
elasticity of her nature, however, dispersed the
remembrance of her annoyance, and when her maid
brought her some coffee she was ready to go to
the bank of the river and enjoy the soft evening
air, in which was no moisture, for in that part of
France no dew ever comes down to give chills on
one hand and refresh the ground on another.
Taking counsel with her maid, she decided that
they should leave this hotel and go to one they
had passed, where they would have better accom-
modation; and, pleased that Miss Lavinia Stocks
would have no further opportunity for showing her
desire for knowledge at her expense, Mrs. Burlington
enjoyed her walk, and went back to sleep as she
had not slept since she left home.
Next morning very early everyone was astir.
Maria got up, and looked out of her window.
VOL. III. 5
66 A Brilliant Woman,
There was a leisurely kind of bustle going on in
the courtyard below — some big brown horses, with
one trace unharnessed, were feeding under the great
tree, shaking the collars and the bells upon them as
if they liked the music they made ; girls with bundles
on their heads; women hurrying to early mass,
their white-winged caps sticking out as they passed
swiftly by; on the river some heavily-laden barges,
guided by long pole-like rudders from the centre of
the boat; a troop of cavalry returning from exercise
trotted briskly up the paved street. There were
light and colour and movement under a brilliant
sunshine; and Mrs. Burlington, w^hile appreciating
it all, had that forlorn feeling consequent on her
own self-willed action of being somehow outside the
happiness possessed by every one else.
When she was dressed, she gave notice of her
departure downstairs, and was rather annoyed by
the woman's satirical expression. Then, summoning
a voiture de place, she asked to be driven to the
Mrs. Burlington en Route. • 67
convent, leaving her maid to pack and make ready
to leave. On second thoughts, however, she left
her the money to pay everything up, and asked
her to meet her at the hotel, and she went there
on her way to secure rooms. She found very much
larger and better rooms, and took them at once.
Then she drove on to the convent.
There was a long delay when she asked for
the Mother Superior. Her heart beat quickly as
she thought that it was possible she might find her
mother here, that in a short time she might feel
her arms around her ; and each distant step sent the
blood more quickly coursing through her veins, and
she found it difficult to preserve her composure.
Failure had never occurred to her. She had never
asked herself how she would act, supposing the
worst was true — supposing her mother had lived
and died in sin. Now this possibility came before
her in all its most terrible aspect, and she was
68 A Brilliant Woman.
Would she have to go back to Cyril, and humble
herself, and tell him that her quest had only brought
a deeper anguish, and a greater humilation to her?
She seemed to suffer more during the time she
sat waiting there than she had yet done. She told
herself that she had put herself into a position she
could not hold ; she had said " till she could clear
her mother's name "... and if she could not
clear it . . . Had she lost him ? vShe felt suffo-
cated in that small room. Her head got giddy, and
she rose to try to open the window, as she did so
the door was pushed open, and the tall dignified
figure, the benevolent face, of the Mother Superior
was before her.
" My child, you are ill," she said in an accent
of profound commiseration. She pushed open the
window and got a little bottle of essence from a
cupboard in the passage. Maria choked back her
tears, and struggled for composure while the mother
spoke to her.
Mrs. Btirlmgton en Route. 69
" You are young, and you are in great trouble ;
you must not try to speak just yet. When you
are better we can talk together. Trouble and trial
always look unbearable when we are young," she
said. " Are you English ? Would you prefer im-
perfect English, or shall we speak French to-
"I can speak French," said Maria, by degrees
calming under the influence of the tender, calm,
emotionless tone, in which, however, was sympathy.
" My trouble is perhaps of my own making, and yet
not altogether. Do you remember a lady educated
here who married unhappily and came back here?
She was half French, half Irish — Marie Rorke."
"I remember her well. She did some very fool-
ish things. She repented, and came here for a
time. Are you her daughter ? You are in some
things like her."
"I am her daughter. You say she did foolish
things. She has been accused of doing wicked
70 A Brilliant Woma^i.
things; and I, her child, want to clear her name."
" For her sake — or for your own?"
Maria's absolute truthfulness impelled her to an-
swer, " For my own. I do not remenber her ; and
she left me ! " she added, with a simplicity which
" In the first place, as the most important part of
your wish should come first, I may say, truthfully,
that from my knowledge of your mother I am quite
satisfied that she did nothing wicked at any time."
" Oh, thank God ?" said Maria, in an outcry of
" But she did some very foolish things, and I do
not think it wonderful that she was supposed to be
guilty of worse than she ever dreamed of. vShe
was, unfortunately, a very undisciplined character.
Yes, I must say it, totally undisciplined, " added the
"Will you tell me my mother's history? Does
she live ? Oh, where is she ! "
Mrs. Burlingto7i en Route. 71
" I am not certain ; but I think she lives. I do
not know where she is ; but she is not in France. "
" Not in France ? "
" No. She was by her own wish brought here,
very ill; we nursed her. When she recovered she
got restless. To have the sea between her child
and herself was more than she could bear. She
went over to England to be near you. She has
always been near you ; she has seen you constantly.
She told us of your marriage and of her thankful-
ness that your life would be a safe and happy
one. Since that time we have not heard once from
" Then why do you think she lives ? " asked Maria,
who nearly broke down again, as the thought of
her mother watching over her, never making herself
known, always near her without obtruding herself,
was an overpowering thought to her.
"Your mother never broke a promise, and she
made us a promise. She has a small income. Of
72 A Brilliatit Wot nan.
her own accord she promised that when she died
that income should pass to us to maintain certain
charities she was interested in. As we have never
received that money, I think she must be aUve.
This promise was made when your marriage placed
you beyond reach of any sort of need, " said the old
nun, always speaking in the far off tone of one to
whom all mundane matters are immaterial.
" Have you time ? Can you tell me my mother's
story now?" implored Mrs. Burlington.
"I have not time to-day. I am sorry, since you
wish it. But come back to-morrow morning, and I
think I can give you one or two of her letters.
Take comfort, and all will be well."
She rose, and the interview was at an end. Mrs.
Burlington was driven to the hotel in a dream of
felicity. What she would have given to have had
Cyril there — to have been able to lay her head on
his shoulder and claim his sympathy.
She sat down and wrote to him, and her happi-
Mrs. Burlington en Route. 73
ness overflowed in every line. So did her aiFection.
She told him to tell Aunt Anne, who, believing the
worst about her mother, had yet always been so
good and so kind to her. Like most letters written
under a strong impulse of gratitude, or under the
influence of any great emotion, the letter was touch-
ing, it was so completely without disguise, or with-
out any attempt to exaggerate or to tell a story
in a favourable light.
"I begin to feel how stupidly I have acted,"
she said, "and how wrongly; but you will forgive,
as you have always forgiven, and all the rest of my
life I will make amends."
It was unfortunate that, when that letter reached
his home, Cyril Burlington was not there to receive it.
THE TABLE D HoTE.
Mrs. Burlington found her maid rather ruffled
when she reached the hotel. The landlady had asked
impertinent questions, and had not shown herself
very obliging, and these complaints were new to the
young and somewhat spoiled wife. " It does not
much matter, " she said. " We shall, I hope and
believe, leave to-morrow afternoon for Paris and
home. And this afternoon, if you will order a carriage,
we can have a good long drive somewhere. I want
air. I have such a headache. The room at the convent
was so close at first."
The Table d'Hote. 75
Pacified by the promise of a drive and the prospec-
tive early move, the maid exerted herself to make
Mrs. Burlington had really too bad a headache to
go downstairs, and had some soup sent up for her
As she passed through the hall to the carriage
she saw a great many men in uniform standing
about, and remarked it to her maid. " I suppose it
is some fete day we know nothing about," she said.
The maid said nothing in reply but looked curiously
at her mistress. It was not very pleasant driving as
the roads were most fearfully dusty, and there was
no shade. All the woods that appeared so very
promising in the distance were the dense foliage of
trees lopped off to within four or five feet of the
ground. At long intervals came some of the large
high-roofed chateaux always so immensely out of
proportion to the size of the properties, and having
no well-kept grounds about them. For the proprietors
76 A Brilliant Woviaii.
go to reside on their properties generally in order
to economize after the amusements of Paris and the
various bathing places, and try to save a little for
the coming season over again. The smartest lady
who in Paris has her liveries and all else in great
perfection, is served by a man-of-all-work in the
country, in a linen jacket or a blouse, and very
seldom goes beyond the grounds. The forlorn look
of untidiness depressed Mrs. Burlington, and she
was soon tired of her slow progress. She went home
and read till dinner was ready.
When she went downstairs she found herself at
a small table with one vacant place opposite to her;
and, a good deal to her dismay, she found a long
table being rapidly filled by officers in uniform.
They used it as their messroom, and the hotel was
their headquarters. Maria was afraid that she was
going to be the only lady in the room. Already
she saw many inquisitive, if admiring, glances in
her direction, and, though outwardly looking quite
The Table d'Hote. 77
cool and collected, she did not like the situation.
She trusted her opposite neighbour would be a
woman. There was a strident voice and a well-
known bang at the door, and Miss Lavinia Jemima
Stocks marched in; raised an incroyablc, and very
coolly surveyed the officers; gave them a sort of
compromise between a nod and a bow, and sat down
in the vacant place opposite Mrs. Burlington.
Had anyone told that lady the evening before
that she would welcome the American she would
have laughed the idea to sconi; but she did wel-
come her. She felt that even Miss Lavinia Jemima
Stocks was better than nothing in the shape of a
woman to make her feel a little less solitary.
She soon, however, began to think it a doubt-
ful comfort. Miss Stocks spoke loud and had a
fixed idea that " no furriner understood English. "
"Wall," she began, "we have better food here
than we had down there; that's a fact; and coats.
But you are sly. You pretended coats were no-
78 A Brilliant: Woman.
thing to you, and here you are." She laughed
with exquisite enjoyment. "You are sly," she
repeated. " Here are the coats and here are you.
Now, I don't pretend that coats are indifferent to
me any more than clothes. I love clothes. How
those men stare. Never mind, do as I do, and look
at 'em back again ; and, to Maria's horror she
raised her incroyahles, and deliberately surveyed
the officers again.
" Cest tine originale'' said one voice, but Mrs.
Burlington's reserved manner and well-bred air kept
them in check. They grew a little noisy, and
Maria suggested leaving the room as soon as the
dessert was attacked.
"I'm not going to flinch because of mankind's
presence, " said Miss Stocks, " and if you had not
wished to have coats in sight why did you come here?"
"I changed because I found my room very
uncomfortable, and also I hoped to have more
The Table d'Hote. 79
Miss Stocks raised her incroyables, but this
time it was to take a prolonged survey of Mrs.
" Wall — do you happen to know any of those
remarkable creatures called horse-marines ? " she
said slowly, " because, if you do, you had better
tell that to them," and she laughed loudly. Mrs.
Burlington was so irritated by her laugh and all
else that she rose, and hurried out of the room.
Oh, that Cyril was there! She felt the eyes of
everyone upon her, and she saw that she had put
herself in a doubtful position. Tears of mortifica-
tion filled her eyes. What a difference when she
was shielded by her husband's presence and when
she was alone!
She did not leave her room again that night,
and she tried to read and not to dwell too much
on a temporary annoyance, or on the promised
history of her mother's youth. But the noise down-
stairs continued till the hours were very late.
8o A Brilliant Woman.
There were billiards, and then much laughter, peo-
ple went to and fro, and there was a perpetual
rushing up and downstairs. Then Miss Lavinia
Stocks actually came to her door, and would take
no message and no answer from her maid; she
must see Mrs. Burlington herself if only for a
moment. " Wall, " she said, " you are mean to
leave the table that way ! I felt quite scared, and
one of those nice gentlemanlike officers came to
ask me whether you had gone away because they
made too much noise. I said no. Then he asked
me who you were, and I answered didn't know;
that you said you had a husband, so perhaps you
" Good night. Miss Stocks, " said Maria in such
vehement wrath that even that obtuse person
drew back, and, as the door was promptly shut,
she was left soliloquising in the passage, and her
indignation found vent in the following words:
" Wall, for a fire-eating young woman, I will say
The Table d'Hote. 8i
I never saw your match ! " and, very much discom-
fited, she turned off to her own room also.
Long before the Mother Superior was quite ready
to receive her, Mrs. Burlington was at the convent.
She had hardly slept. Feverish and anxious, she
had risen early, and driven off, leaving her maid a
little bewildered by the incessant restlessness of
It was, so far, unfortunate for the American lady
that, however amenable the maid might have been
to tell or disclose anything, she had nothing to tell
when she was questioned closely. Mrs. Burlington
had engaged her for a trip abroad; she understood
she was ordered by the doctor to take a short trip
for her health.
"And what is Mr. Burlington like?"
" I never saw him. "
"Never saw him! Wall, that is a remarkable
fact — a very remarkable fact."
Mrs. Rutter was not at all adverse to a little
VOL. III. 6
32 A Brillia7it Woman.
conversation; she found Mrs. Burlington much too
reticent. She had been accustomed to ladies who
knew no language but their own. Now, Mrs. Bur-
lington knew French better than she did herself,
though something might have been added with
advantage to the purity of her accent; and Mrs.
Rutter found it dull to be running about with a
lady who never spoke to her at all, except to ex-
press annoyance about something she wished car-
ried out. Again, in her capacity of courier-maid
she had always been accustomed to plan the jour-
neys and choose the hotels. This was quite taken
out of her hands by her present mistress. " I see
what you think, miss, " she said. " You think that
if there was a Mr. Burlington I should have seen
him. But, though I never saw him, I found out
all about him in the neighbourhood, and Mr. Bur-
lington does exist. There is no doubt about that. "
"Wall -if he's a fact, he is a fact," said Miss
Lavinia. " There's money ? **
The Table d'Hote. 83
" Oh, there's money, but not very freely spent,
and accounts most pertickler done up every night
in a book. It's always, ' What's the price, and how
much will it be?*" I don't hold with rich people
who think twice about every penny they spend. "
" I despise them, " said Miss Lavinia, with a sniff.
" I do hate your English swells that walk five times
round a farthing before they give it away. "
" The servants don't understand about all the
leaving home and everything. Then, to be quite
fair, I must say they said Mrs. Burlington had had
fever — typhoid. "
" Goodness gracious ! Is it infectious ? " exclaimed
" Not as far on as this, " said Mrs. Rutter, with
a rather contemptuous smile.
"Now, what on earth is she doing at that con-
vent ? " exclaimed Miss Lavinia.
"Mrs. Burlington is that reserved that I could
not say ; but I always feel, when people are so very
84 A Brilliant Woman.
careful, they have their reasons, " said Mrs. Rutter.
"Ah, wall " said Miss Lavinia. "Mr. Bur-
lington's a fact. That's something. I wonder, as
his wife's been ill, why he did not come to look
after her. It would seem more natural, eh?"
Mrs. Rutter's lips were tightly compressed as one
who says, " I know a good deal more than I choos e
to say. " And Miss Lavinia understood the expression.
"Has your lady got as good a room as I have?"
she asked, throwing open her door and bidding
Mrs. Rutter enter.
" It's larger, " said Mrs. Rutter, " and it looks
different. My lady has such a lot of silver things
in her bag. It's a deal of worry carrying all that
silver about. I'm sure that bag is as heavy as
lead; and when ladies take no footman it's too
much. I'm one for consistency, " said Mrs. Rutter,
who had begun to dislike her mistress very much,
and still more since she had emphasised her griev-
ances by talking about them.
The Table d'Hote, 85
Her exposition had quite a different effect from
the one she expected. Miss Lavinia was much
impressed by this account of the silver, which was,
as she would have put it, a "fact" — she might per-
haps have added, a "sohd" fact.
Ignorant of having given any offence, Mrs. Bur-
lington was sitting waiting for the sweet-faced old
nun who had already given her so much comfort.
When she entered she came with her hands full of
papers neatly tied up together, and she placed these
at once in her visitor's hands.
"Read these by-and-by," she said; "my avoca-
tion does not permit me to be very long with you.
Those letters give you the history of your mother's
life after her marriage. I can tell you of her only
before she left us.
" Her father was an Irishman, a man of good
family, and he married a French girl — a pretty,
graceful creature. They had very little money, and
neither of them knew how to make good use of
86 A Brilliaitt Woman.
that little. They were often in great straits . . .
" It is wonderful how people exist — how they
manage to get on. Even with the little daughter,
the two somehow struggled on!
"As she got older she came here every day.
In her shabby little frock, without any sort of assist-
ance from her dress, she was more lovely, more
graceful than I can describe. Ah ! my child, even
now I grieve to think of all that tender soul had
to endure ! Her mother fell ill. She saw this adored
mother in want of everything! Against our
prayers and entreaties she took a step we all deeply,
bitterly regretted! A Spanish musician, who gave
lessons in the neighbourhood, was immensely struck
by your mother's lovely and graceful figure, and
he taught her to dance.
" She danced with a fire and a grace which were
something wonderful. She used to dance to the
scholars here, and practise her steps every spare
minute. It was like the dancing of a fairy, and
The Table d'Hote. 87
her little feet moved with a swiftness truly marvel-
lous. She left home and got an engagement in
Paris. She had an old servant with her, and no
one ever had a single word of reproach to utter
against her character. She went to London ; the
sums of money she sent her poor mother. She
wrote constantly. It was for them she danced, for
them she worked. She called herself 'Donella.*
She always talked of the time when she could come
home with a little income. . .
"There was a fire in the village where her
parents lived. They were not burned, but the
shock and the fright killed poor Mrs. Rorke, and
her husband did not long survive her." Here the
good Mother stopped. The recollection was very
painful to her; she might have told how some of
the sufferers had been carried to the convent and
tended and cared for till death mercifully released
them from their sufferings; but her moments were
all too short, and her busy cares claimed her as
88 A Brilliant lVo??ian.
soon as she had kept her promise to the child of
the girl she had loved.
"I must now blame your mother" she continued.
" I fully expected, once the necessity for exertion
was over, that she would have returned here, where
I offered her shelter and protection. But the excite-
ment, the applause, the admiration she met with
turned her from us; she remained on the stage,
though still keeping her name pure and her fame
unspotted .... Then she married. This fact and
your birth were all we knew for a long
"Some years afterwards, with the fire of her eyes
extinguished, and her figure bowed from a severe ac-
cident, she came to see us. It was terribly unfortun-
ate that I was ill, and only saw her once. She
told her story to one who had not known her in
her bright youth, and who did not believe her . . .
Your poor little mother had a quick, hasty temper,
and had also a most sensitive nature .... She
The Table d'Hofe. 89
would not remain ; before I could interfere, before
I knew anything about her going, she had gone! I
have never heard of her — I have never seen her since."
Mrs. Burlington had listened as only those listen
whose whole future hangs upon the verdict to be
How could she clear her mother's name without
proof ! How could she trace her career ! All
seemed as far back, as cruelly vague as ever! She
was most bitterly disappointed.
" Will you tell me, my child (as your face betrays
your disappointment), does much depend upon your
tracing your mother's career ? Why are you so
anxious to do so now ? You are married, and it
seems to me that it might have been necessary
before. I do not understand the necessity now.
Will you explain it ?"
" I married without knowing who my mother was.
The happiness of my life now depends upon my
clearing her name."
90 A Brilliant Woman.
" Ah ! then your husband did not know, and he
visits it on you ! Poor, poor child, it is sad, it is
terrible for you. Does he show no mercy?"
" Oh, do not think this of him ! He is goodness
itself He knew before. . . He thought it for
my happiness not to know. But how can I live
now that I do know ? How could I bear that any
children" . . . She stopped with a deep, agonis-
The Mother looked compassionately upon her.
"A proud heart and a high spirit," she said gently.
"Your mother erred. She left her husband. There
even I cannot blame her, knowing what I know;
but to prevent your father's following her, to pre-
vent his claiming her, she allowed him to suppose
that she left home with the man who loved her. . .
She declared that it was the appearance of evil
only, and that he had taken her to a place of
safety, and there bid her farewell. She called him
her knight without reproach. I believe her ; but.
The Table d'Hote. 91
frankly, others did not, and I am afraid others will
not ! Judge for yourself. "
INfaria was trying to control her sobs. She was
completely broken down by all this terrible rever-
sion, this annihilation of her hopes. She had no
proofs. The Mother rose. "In those records you
will see what a good and pure woman your
mother was. But her fatal error may leave conse-
quences she never thought of; it is one penalty of
deviating from the right path. If you learn some-
thing of her afterlife, will you let me know ? And
may I advise you, and say one word of counsel,
as you are her child ?"
" Say anything ! Advise me ! Help me ! "
" If your husband accepts the facts — if even he, as
a man of the world, puts the worst construction upon
your mother's actions, and yet loves you — accept
his kindness, and thank God for it. Humble yourself,
and take this baffled hope as your cross, and take it
cheerfully. Wifely obedience is your first duty now! "
92 A Brilliant Woman.
She laid her hand on Mrs. Burlington's bowed
head, and, with a gesture of farewell, was going
away, when her visitor said, " I will ... try I
will take your advice. I will leave my address. If
you hear anything, you will let me know."
So they parted. Something in the holy calm of
the Mother Superior's face gave a sense of having
been in contact with one above the world, above
its pettiness, its small aims, and its petty jealousies ;
and yet she had sympathised with the feelings of a
daughter for her mother. Mrs. Burlington had had
a disappointment ; but she felt, as she drove away,
something of the elevation of the Mother Superior's
views, and she was comforted by the belief
expressed in her mother's goodness. She had had
a definite direction given her, and to one with a
nature like hers it was also a consolation, as it
involved action. She would go home and face the
unpleasant surroundings, the gossip of the neigh-
bours, with courage.
The Table d'Hote. 93
She never for a second doubted that her husband
was there watching for her return. She had followed
the letter she had sent him in thought ; she saw
his kind eyes reading it, and knew he was sorry for
her. Then, enlightened by some w^ords about wifely
duty, wifely obedience, she caught her breath for
a moment, and possible displeasure on his part,
for the very first time came to her mind.
Arrived at the hotel, she pushed on her prepara-
tions, and sat down to read those letters. It was
barely twelve. She ordered luncheon, and arranged to
take her departure at one o'clock — a good deal to
the dismay of the landlady, who had counted upon
having a rich English lady and her maid for a
considerable time with her.
OLD MR. WYNCOTE TO THE RESCUE.
Mr. Burlington's annoyance and displeasure were,
it must be allowed, very justifiable w^hen he found
that his wife had gone abroad without consulting
him. It is true that she had declared her intention
of not seeing him, but he had treated that as one
of those threats which are uttered in haste, and are
never intended to be carried out, and it had not
gone deep. He was startled now to find that it
had not been an idle threat. To a man so com-
pletely accustomed to regularity of the domestic
atmosphere, where even the change of an under-
Old Mr. Wyncote to the Rescue. 95
servant caused a slight sensation, and where punc-
tuality and decorum reigned, it was very bewilder-
It seemed to him that his part became more
difficult to play every day. It was equally evident
to him that his love for his wife, with all her faults,
was tenfold what it had been. Even underlying
all this irritation was the consciousness that the
postponement of that complete reconciliation in
reality hurt it most.
Aunt Anne was in despair, trying to be just,
doing her best to say what might console him on
the one hand, and what she honestly felt upon the
other in extenuation. It was a step she could not
understand. She understood still less that one of
Mrs. Burlington's charms in her eyes was her
fearlessness and her originality. If she had been
asked, she would have accounted for her affection
by talking of her truthfulness. But to be absolutely
truthful there must be fearlessness.
96 A Brilliant Woman.
"I am so sorry for you, dear Cyril! It must
make you anxious. Poor Maria ! I wish we knew
exactly what she has been told. It is not like her
to go off without one line to explain things, and
yet I do not know — it is like her if she could not
tell all the truth. wShe is so frank, you know. **
" We shall never know all the truth till she
does tell us; we shall hear it from no one else! "
said Mr. Burlington, shortly.
" That is severe, but I think you are right. I am
afraid Mrs. Kingson has a way of putting things.
I ought not to say it, I suppose. It is very wrong,
but yes! I do think she is too much afraid of
hurting and vexing one. "
" Too smooth and a moral coward, " summed up
Mr. Burlington. " Well, Aunt Anne, I must go
abroad too. There is nothing else to be done. "
"My dear Cyril, must you? Yes, of course, you
are right, and yet supposing she comes back and
finds you absent? "
Old Mr. Wyncote to the Rescue. 97
" You see, dear Aunt Anne, our temporary
separation is known to no one but ourselves. If
it gets about that my wife has gone abroad, and
that I am in England, imagine how people would
talk, and we must guard against putting any diffi-
culties in the way of her going home. We must
not make things harder for her. "
Against this reasoning poor Aunt Anne had
nothing to say or to urge, and she cheerfully
agreed to remain where she was, and to let Cyril
know everything that took place during his absence.
" It is much better than my being at home. I
am such a stupid woman about keeping things
quiet, or concealing anything, " she said ; " and if
the neighbours asked me any questions, I might
give a wrong impression from anxiety not to say
The wisdom of Mr. Burlington's arrangement was
not long of proving itself in a practical fashion.
The very afternoon after his departure, as Aunt
VOL. III. 7
98 A Brilliant Woviaii.
Anne was sitting reading, or rather trying to read
and to fix her thoughts on her book, the door
opened, and Miss Flora Harrington was announced ;
Flora, very smart, in a tremendously tight gown
and exuberant spirits. She was very effusive.
" Delighted to find you in, dear Miss Burlington.
I am so thankful! I have been dying to hear all
about everything. How are you, and how is poor
" I am very well, thank you. Are you staying
in town ? "
" Yes, " and Flora cast down her eyes, bit her
very red lips, and looked conscious with all her
might. " I'll tell you all about myself afterwards.
What I want to know now is all about poor dear
Molly. Dear! how sad it all is! and what is poor
Mr. Burlington going to do? Where is Molly,
Miss Burlington ! "
" In France. "
" And poor Mr. Burlington here ! How sad I "
Old Mr. Wyncote to the Rescue. 99
" Mr. Burlington is also in France, " said Aunt
Anne, not without a slight inward qualm and
acutely conscious that she was purposely mislead-
ing the young lady, who, under cover of much
commiseration, was overflowing with curiosity, and
" In France ! " A thousand notes of astonishment
and incredulity were plainly heard in Miss Harring-
ton's tone of voice.
"They are both in France/' said Miss Burling-
ton in a perfectly matter-of-fact tone.
Flora changed her position, and drew a little
nearer to JNIiss Burlington. Then she said, " You
do not place any confidence in me, dear Miss Bur-
lington, and I am sorry, because, if you did, I
think I could help you ! "
" May I ask in what way, Miss Harrington, sup-
posing that I want — help ? " Aunt Anne's voice
was not friendly or cordial. She could not forget
that this girl was at the bottom of all the mischief,
loo A Brilliant Wojna^t.
and, though, as a rule, lenient in her judgments,
she was not predisposed in favour of a young lady
who was so exactly the opposite of everything she
considered a young lady should be. " I understand.
Miss Harrington, that my niece and you parted —
well, not on very friendly terms. You are ex-
tremely kind; but till I know exactly what you
mean, how can I possibly answer your question in
any other way? I am not at all a good hand at
" It is quite true, " answered Flora, a little daunted
by the other lady's manner. " Dear Molly was
upset, excited . . . Oh ! " she added carrying the
war well into the enemy's country. " It was cruel
never telling her anything. Poor dear thing!
how little she thought of her marriage, and how
much too good she thought herself for poor Mr.
This was hard for Aunt Anne, but she was
loyal to her nephew's wife. Looking at Miss Har-
Old Mr. Wyncote to the Rescue. loi
rington, she asked herself whether the girl was
only a fool, or whether she was malicious?
iVIiss Harrington was getting a little uncomfort-
able, she had plenty of impudence, but the calm
scrutinising gaze of the well-bred lady before her
put her a good deal out of countenance. "I have
not told you my news, " she said in a rather hurried
manner, " and I daresay it will not interest you
very much. Still perhaps you will pass it on to
Molly — that is if you happen to know her address. "
"Very well," answered Aunt Anne.
" I am going to be married. I am to marry a
very nice man, passionately in love with me, not
very much money, but, as I have seen for myself,
that does not make happiness! We love each
other! " she said with a sentimental gaze at Aunt
" I am glad " said Aunt Anne. " It is a great
happiness to love and be beloved. I trust yours
may be a very happy marriage."
102 A Brilliant Woman.
Her courtesy and her kind tone touched Flora
Harrington's selfish, worldly nature. She felt it
undeserved. Real tears came into her eyes. A
good deal of her aggressiveness dropped from her,
and she said in a low voice " Thank you ! "
" May I ask his name ? — and you say he is not
rich; has he a profession?"
"Yes; his name is a good one — Harley. He is
something in the city. He is a very good man ;
"It is a great thing, indeed, " said Aunt Anne
with all sincerity, " to make such a marriage. It is
the happiest lot for husband or wife when admira-
tion and love go hand in hand!"
Flora rose; and, after bidding her good-bye, she
came back from the door and said, " Miss Burling-
ton, you may know it already, but if you do not . . .
I know Mrs. Burlington wished to find out some-
thing about her mother. I may be perfectly wrong,
but from one or two things he said I think there is
Old Mr. Wyncote to the Rescue. 103
one man who could tell you everything about her."
"Yes," said Aunt Anne; "who is he?"
Miss Burlington sank back in her chair. The
idea that presented itself made her very unhappy.
" Mr. Wyncote ! " she repeated, in a faint voice.
" Yes. It is perhaps trifling — very trifling— when
repeated; but one day he said to himself, 'She is
very like that picture, but oh I hoiv 2inlike the reality
710W.' I laughed, and asked him what he was dream-
ing about, that he was talking out loud. Then
he looked grave and said, T was thinking of a
woman's past and present.' Then he immediately
changed the conversation. I think ' the reality now^
meant Mrs. Burlington's mother!"
She did not wait to be thanked, but she went
away at once. She had gone full of a wish to give
Aunt Anne an uncomfortable time, and to pay off
all old scores. She left the house conscious of
having been subdued and softened by the dignified
I04 A Brilliant Woman.
calm of the old lady, and her genuine kindness
eibout her marriage.
" It was generous of her to say it all so nicely, "
she thought, "for I know I am very antagonistic
to her, and that, as much as it is in her to hate
any one, she hates me!"
At any rate, she had left Aunt Anne much to
think about. She got up and walked up and down
the room. She was perturbed and terribly anxious.
It was a difficult question for any one to have to
answer, to one of her temperament doubly difficult.
Did she wish, y^r the honour of her family, X.o^vA
Maria's mother — a woman who had broken her
marriage vows, and had broken the seventh com-
mandment? What would Cyril do in the circum-
stances? What would he wish? and Maria
She knew that her one wish was to bring these
two together to live once more in concord and
happiness. She would do anything in the world
to gain this end. All her indecision fled as she put
Old Mr. Wyncote to the Resctie. 105
this aim before her, and this poor lady, who until
then had never made a decision for herself, made
one then. She made up her mind to write at once
to Mr. Wyncote, to appeal to him — if need be,
to confide in him — and ask him, if he could help
her, to help her now! She would be guided by
circumstances afterwards. If Mrs. Burlington's mother
had sunk into wretchedness she could be relieved,
and Cyril would help. But it would be better to
know, and to put an end to all the misery, all the
uncertainty hanging over their house. Without
giving herself time to change her mind or to worry
herself by considering the question in its wider
aspect Aunt Anne sat down and wrote to Mr.
He would be surprised by a letter from her ; but
she wanted to know whether he could tell her any-
thing of Mrs. Kingson (nee Rorke), of her present
abode, if alive, and whether there was any reason
why she might not be received by her nephew and
io6 A Brilliant Woman.
his wife. It was certainly a diplomatic letter, and
Miss Burlington was justly proud of it. Then, having
sent it off, she nerved herself to await an answer
which might be of such immense importance to
Between that evening and the second day of the
departure of her letter, Miss Burlington had many
unhappy moments. All those proverbs about let-
ting things alone danced before her eyes, to her
great torment. Had she done wrong? and, if harm
came, was her motive one that would excuse her
to Cyril and his wife ? She suffered much, and she
had spasms of regret. Why had she interfered ?
So often the reasons that appeared so pressing
and so excellent before we commit ourselves to a
line of action appear so insufficient afterwards!
Her letter was despatched on a Tuesday, and on
Thursday Miss Burlington got her answer. Not in
the shape of a letter. A visitor was announced;
and the tall figure of old Mr. Wyncote, the man
Old Mr. Wyncote to the Rescue, 107
who never left his home, stood before her, looking
huge in the small room to which (in the absence
of Cyril) his aunt had betaken herself.
" I have come to answer your letter in person, "
he said, in his deep and pleasant voice, " and I
will begin by stating two facts. Mrs. Kingson
lives ; and there is no reason why your nephew and
her daughter should object to seeing her in their
house. There is every reason why they should be
proud of doing so."
Aunt Anne, accustomed to self-control, and not
a woman given to tears as a rule, was quite over-
come by an answer so consolatory. Two big tears
rolled over her face, and made the man before her
understand better than anything else could have
done the tension of feeling under which her appeal
to him had been made. He honoured her for the
evidence of so much feeling, and having come more
because he was thankful at last to have an oppor-
tunity of vindicating the woman his brother had so
passionately loved and whose story was so dread-
Friends ? 1 09
fully sad, he was anxious now to relieve Miss Bur-
lington's anxiety also.
" Yes, " he said, " Airs. Kingson lives, and has
lived ever since her daughter's marriage, near us
and near you. She is frail and delicate, as any
woman must be who, from the highest, purest, and
most unselfish motives, lives a life of seclusion and
repression, seeing no one, and living without com-
panionship, without affection, without friends.
"Her aim and object all along have been the
good of her child. For her good she has deprived
herself of her society. Wherever her daughter has
been, at school or in London, there she has made
her home, and seeing her well, happy, and pros-
perous contented her."
"But why?" asked Miss Burlington. "If she is
what you say, why hasshe thought this necessary ?"
"Because she made one mistake, though she
committed no sin. She was married by a trick, by
a fraud, to Mr. Kingson, whom she did not love,
no A Brilliant Woman.
and thus parted from the man she loved. Mr. King-
son was an unspeakable villain ! He drank, and
the life she led with him was horrible.
" She knew nothing of the law, or of the protec-
tion she might have claimed; he had sent away
her child, and he nearly killed her. She thought
the only way out of his clutches was to run away
in such a manner as to make him believe the worst ;
and, poor soul, this she did. There was but one
man in the world whom, for her sake, for the sake
of the days when they had been all the world to
each other — my brother, in short — she could trust
to help her, to act with her !
" He did help her, he left home with her — took
care to be seen with her leaving the house. He
took her straight to the convent, and left her there.
By her own wish they never met again. You
know the rest of the story, I think. Mr. Kingson
sent a challenge to my brother, whom he believed
and hoped had left the country, and my brother
Friends ? 1 1 1
accepted the challenge, and killed the meanest
wretch the earth ever received.
" Mrs. Kingson had a small income, and she
took rooms as near her child as possible. I am
not certain," said Mr. Wyncote, after some hesita-
tion, " but I think that when the shock and horror
of it all had passed in some degree she thought
she had taken an exaggerated view of her position,
and I fancy she had an inter^'iew more than once
with her sister-in-law, the aunt in whose hands her
child was placed."
This was a startling idea to Miss Burlington.
Was it possible that Mrs. Kingson knew of the
mother's nearness, and that she was blameless?
And, if this was so, what motive had weighed with
her and prompted her actions?
Mr. Wyncote sat down near her. " It must be
a difficult position for you in many ways. Miss
Burlington," he said, with very real sympathy;
" but you can, perhaps, enter into all I feel about
112 A Brilliant Woman.
it. No, not all, for you do not know the mother
—the gentlest and most unselfish of human beings.
Think what it must have been for her to make a
life apart from her child, sacrificing the happiness
of her whole life rather than risk that child's future !
Her hfe blameless, and yet secluding herself as if
she was guilty. My poor brother was a reckless
man, and talked and acted wildly enough. It was
the loss of the girl he so passionately loved that
drove him to despair. It was his love for that
same woman that enabled him to play the part he
did regarding her, and then, in a frenzy of horror,
and deeper despair, made him rejoice in the op-
portunity afforded him of punishing the author of
his misery and hers! I do not defend him. But
if I had time to tell you of that man's treachery,
how my marriage was twisted into being his,
and how that poor soul was hunted and perse-
He stopped, for Miss Burlington's face showed
Friends ? 113
how deeply she felt his words, and he was anxious
not to distress her. He had succeeded in giving
her a better impression of Mrs. Kingson, and he
hoped that through her a reunion of mother and
daughter might be brought about in the future.
'■ You have placed a new and very hopeful solu-
tion to our difficulties before me," said Miss Bur-
lington, very gratefully. " It is kind of you to have
come, because these things gain by being told as
you have told me the story of Alaria's mother.
]\Iaria has gone to France to trace her mother.
She imagined her to be there. ]My nephew has
followed her. Deception of any kind hurts in the
end, and in return for your kindness I will tell you
all that has passed and how it came to pass."
" You may feel sure your confidence will not be
given to an unworthy or an untrustworthy man,"
said ^Ir. Wyncote gravely, reading in her face all
the confficting emotions which he could so tho-
VOL. III. 8
114 ^ Brilliant Woman.
Then Miss Burlington told him how all had
been concealed from her nephew's wife, and how
at last it had been blurted out, and the bad effects
of this sudden revelation.
" It seems to me that one satisfaction lies in this
painful story which is frequently absent from other
" One satisfaction ! "
" Yes ; the blame can be put upon the right
head, " he answered grimly. " From beginning to
end Mrs. Kingson seems to have acted with but
one object in view, how best to secure her own
ends. She took the child because her husband
insisted, and she could not help herself Then she
wanted to turn her beauty and talents to account,
and use them to draw pleasant society round her.
Then she got rid of her, and, being" a weak as
well as a worldly woman, once her object was
achieved, she turned upon her and rent her. " This
summary was, if severe, too true to be contradicted.
Friends f 115
The question now pressing upon Miss Burlington
was what her next step was to be.
And it came as a surprise to Mr. Wyncote, who
did not know much of feminine idiosyncrasies, that
the woman who had opened her heart to him — a
stranger, — and who had shown great decision in a
momentous question, should now be so vacillating
and so wavering.
Whether to wait for Cyril's return or to make
friends w^ith Maria's mother, and surprise the two
on their return by a personal acquaintance with the
object of their search, seemed to present to her
alternately advantages or disadvantages.
^Ir. Wyncote could not follow the swift working
of her mind. He himself was most eager, most
anxious, to take good news and good tidings to the
unselfish, brave woman he had learned to reverence
as he did reverence Maria's mother.
But, though the complex attitude of Miss Bur-
lington's mind was a problem he could not solve,
1 1 6 A Brilliant Woman.
he was fully aware of a truth only too often for-
gotten ; that if any good is to come of an action
involving thought, it must arise spontaneously and
from conviction, and not from outside influence;
therefore he sat silent, saying no word to bias her
decision. Then it came.
" I should like to see Mrs. Kingson. I should
like to become acquainted with a mother so unselfish
as you represent her to be — as indeed she must be, "
added Aunt Anne, with a tender inflection in her voice.
" I am sure you are right. I am sure you will
like her," Mr. Wyncote said heartily.
" And how is it to be managed? " Aunt Anne once
more seemed a little bewildered.
Mr. Wyncote smiled. " Mrs. Kingson will come
up to London; she will come and see you, or will
you go and find her? She will go to a private
hotel I know of."
" Oh , I will go and see her. I want to pay her
every respect," said Miss Burlington, heartily.
Friends ? wj
Mr. Wyncote knew now that the cause was won.
He was offered, and accepted^ luncheon. He was
a delightful companion, had read much, and quite
won Aunt Anne's heart by his appreciation of books
she cared for. Somehow, the old traditions of his
wild conduct, and of the reckless behaviour of his
brother, had kept him from making friends with his
neighbours, added to his own love of a secluded life.
Aunt Anne began to see that in the past her
judgment had been narrow and prejudiced. How
often she had been in deadly anxiety for fear this
man should acquire any influence over Cyril ! Now
she asked herself what she had dreaded. They
parted with a friendly feeling on both sides, and Miss
Burlington began a letter to Cyril explaining what
had passed, and leaving it open that she might
add her impressions of his " mother-in-law. "
How she prayed and trusted that the picture set
before her by Mr. Wyncote might be realised, and her
invitation to be friends justified by the happiest results.
ALONE IN LONDON.
Marl\, much to her maid's surprise, elected to
travel alone, and she sent her maid into a separate
carriage. She gave a substantial pourboirc to the
guard, and, complaining bitterly of headache (no
idle complaint!), she lay down in the carriage, and
shrouded herself in darkness, as much as possible.
Satisfied that she would be left for some little
time to herself, she pushed aside the curtain on the
farther side of the carriage, and, drawing out the
packet of letters, she read with absorbing interest
the scanty details of her mother's life. As she read.
Alone in London. 119
her eyes flashed and her lips curved into a smile.
Truth lay on every page. " Even with no other
proof than this, my husband will believe! Thank
God! Thank God! " she said. Then she thought
bitterly of her mother's trials and humiliations. The
great unselfishness throughout struck her with over-
whelming force ; that this life of repression or seclu-
sion, without a friend to cheer her, or society of
any kind, without affection, for which she evidently
pined, should have been lived through and endured
for her sake, thrilled her with pain. "My mother!"
she murmured, half aloud. " My poor mother ! Ah,
how can I make amends ? how can I ever make up
to her for all these years?"
Who was it that she talked of having seen
occasionally, v\rho came between her and the happi-
ness she craved for ? Some of her letters written to
the Mother Superior were written from week to
week in the shape of a diary, and here she spoke of
having seen her child. There was one incident which
I20 A Brilliant Woman.
sent the tears to Maria's eyes, of how she had pur-
posely stood a Httle in the way, so that in passing
the child might touch her. "She brushed past me
and felt the contact, turned round and said, ' I beg
your pardon!' What a smile she has! and how she
could love!" wrote the poor mother.
The journey came to an end before Maria had
finished re-reading for the twentieth time the record
of her mother's unselfish devotion. She was startled
when she found herself in the gathering darkness
once more in Paris. Forgetting that her maid knew
nothing of her newly-found hopes, she astonished
her by her determination not to sleep in Paris. She
must go on.
"But you will over-fatigue yourself, ma'am; you
must need rest."
"Rest! Oh, I shall only rest when I reach home. "
Then, with a new-born consideration, foreign to her
character, she added, with utmost courtesy, " Unless
you are very tired. I am longing to meet my hus-
Alone in Londoii. 121
band ! I am counting the moments till I get home ! "
Never was anyone much more surprised than
Rutter. Too well trained, however, to betray any
surprise, she hurried to arrange everything, leaving
Mrs. Burlington to await her return with all the
patience she could muster. It was a heavenly night,
and ]\Irs. Burlington sat on deck, a prey to a
thousand conflicting feelings and emotions. She
began to see so much that was hateful to herself,
and that must have been so distasteful to her hus-
band, in the way in which she had carried out her
plan and gone off alone.
Suppose that her husband refused to receive her,
and refused to believe her? All at once, just as she
had gained one part of her aim, and was wildly
happy at having done so, the carelessness about
his wishes, the self-will with which she had followed
her bent, without any consideration for his feelings,
became visible to her.
wShe sat the whole time on deck allowing the
122 A Brilliant Woman.
salt spray to touch her face, and thinking of these
things as she had never thought before. She was
roused by an American voice, though the voice
was not as aggressive as that of ^liss Lavinia
" Did you choose your place by accident or by
design?" said the American lady. It was too
dark to see her distinctly, but she was tall, and
appeared tremendously wrapped up.
" By design ; the centre of the ship a little forward
is the best place, though I am a very good
sailor. I prefer having my back to the other
passengers, and I love the fresh sea breeze."
"Ah, yes, yes. Is there room for two?" she
asked, coming alarmingly near.
"I am afraid not," answered Mrs. Burlington,
" Yes, yes, I see ; you're a little high. Now what
on earth's the use of being high here? You're
alone; I'm alone; and I saw you sitting enjoying
Alone in London. 123
yourself just when I felt squeamish, and I said to
myself, Arabella Minson, you go by that lady and
ask to share privileges. So I came."
" I have no privileges. I have a headache, and
I sought solitude."
"Air you married?"
"Fancy that! and you air alone. Why?"
Mrs. Burlington laughed.
"Now, what does that laugh mean?"
" It means that I am amused. "
"You're a Britisher?"
"I am an English woman."
"And when you're asked a plain question you
won't give a plain answer."
" Why should I answer you ? I do not know
you. It is not our habit to talk to strangers, and
to tell them all about our private affairs."
"Yes, yes, yes, you're high. Well, you think
tall things of yourself; but one of the biggest
124 ^ Brilliant Wovian.
people in America is in this ship ; and she and me,
we talked a good bit together. We are all on
one slab in America, you know."
At that moment two people came upon the
scene. A tall, slight figure with a fur cloak on
her arm. A man was with her.
In a peculiarly pretty, refined voice she said,
" I am afi-aid there is not a chair to be had, and
it is impossible to breathe downstairs."
" I have a chair here 1 can give you, " said
Maria, as she moved her feet off one in front of
her and pushed it gently upon one side.
" I am so much obliged to you. But I hardly
like to deprive 3^ou of it."
Mrs. Burlington would hear of no denial, and
the lady sat down at a short distance; then the
man arranged a cloak round her and left her.
Mrs. Burlington was charmed to see that this
new arrival had had the effect of sending the
inquisitive American away. She laughed and said,
Alone in London. 125
" What funny people Americans are! There was
a woman here just now who took me to task for not
answering questions about my domestic affairs!"
" I suppose that was ]Miss Minson. "
"Yes. Do you know her?"
'^Yes," answered the stranger, in a peculiar tone.
" All Americans seem so funny, " pursued Mrs. Bur-
lington, " there w^as a dreadful woman in France — Miss
Lavinia Stocks — I did not know how to get rid of her! "
"Do you know many Americans?"
" Well, you have now brought me to book. I
only know two; but I suppose they are average
specimens of their country!"
" If you call me at all an acquaintance, you now
know three. I am an American. Pray do not be
vexed or annoyed! I was afraid if I did not tell
you at once you might say something worse of my
country people. I am very fond of my country,
and very proud of being an American," she added,
126 A Brilliant IVovian.
" I do not know how to apologize ; but it is quite
impossible to believe that you are of the same race
as Miss Lavinia Stocks, or that person ! "
" x\nd yet I fancy you have heard cockneys speak,
and are acquainted with provincial dialects in England ? "
" Of course ; but she told me of some lady on
board here who was one of the biggest people in
America, and very friendly with her, and that they
were ' on the same slab.' "
" We are a little boastful, I suppose, " said the
lady, laughing. " I suppose I am the person she
considers the biggest person in America. My hus-
band is very rich. We are Bostonians. Miss Minson
comes to Paris and London every year to see the
fashions. She is a very clever dressmaker, and one
of three sisters who have a large dressmaking business
in New York. I employ them a good deal. I have
known them for years."
Mrs. Burlington felthorribly ashamed of herself "You
have given me a lesson," she said in a tone of apology.
Alone in London. 127
" O, no ! I meant nothing of the kind ; but I
always feel regarding ourselves, as well as about
you, and, indeed, with regard to all nations, how
much better it would be if we knew a little more
really of each other. You take two very pushing
vulgar women as types of American ladies. We
take solitary prominent cases of immorality among
the English upper ten, and moralize over the immo-
rality of all as a nation.
" I have been much in England, much in France
and Germany. I have friends everywhere, while
American to my very finger tips. I will honestly
make one confession — that in point of honour, man-
liness, and refinement no race can produce the equal
of a well-bred, well-bom, well-principled Briton!
That is the result of my travels, and it is the opinion
of most Americans who have seen the world."
Maria said to herself, " Like my husband. "
Dover was now reached. The two bid each other
good-bye, and in the midst of the bustle and scramble
128 A Brilliant Woman,
that ensued, while she was standing back to be out
of the turmoil, Miss Minson addressed her, " Well,
you should be a proud woman. Mrs. Farley Peyton
has been aifable to you ! "
At that moment Maria's maid came up to her>
saying, " I have sent the luggage to the Lord Warden,
and have got a cab, ma'am."
" Dear me ! " said Miss Minson aloud. " If I'd
known she had a personal attendant, which means
money, I'd have done a deal with her ! "
Maria did not wish to stay in London, and she
did not intend to take the maid (who was only with
her for the journey) beyond London. She slept at
Dover, went to London next morning, and on
She was seen into the train for Worcestershire
and was whirling towards her husband's place with
her thoughts busy and anxious enough. Her inde-
pendent step seemed much graver as she neared
Burlington, and she rehearsed her arrival till she
Alone in London. 129
was tired. How would her husband look? How
would he receive her?
With a very thick veil over her face she got into
a cab and told the man to take her there. He
hesitated and said, " If you except to find some of
the family there you'll be disappointed, ma'am. The
house is shut up, and Mr. and ]Mrs. Burlington are
away, have been away for ever so long. "
" And the old house, Aliss Burlington's ? "
" That's shut up too. ]^Iiss Burlington's with the
others. The gardeners look after the grounds, and
there's the housemaids and i\lrs. Butt, no one else.
It's just a blank in the country, no coming and
going now. "
]Maria, who had been wound up to the highest
pitch of expectation, and who was painfully conscious
of great fatigue, was driven to a small hotel, where
she had tea, and the first train back to London took
But fatigue and the disappointment and reaction
VOL. III. 9
I30 A Brilliant Wovimi.
of it all sent the tears rolling over her face, and
she wept till she was exhausted.
Then a most provoking and exasperating thing
happened. She tried in vain to remember the name
of the place in Kensington where she had found
herself on recovering from her fever, She could
remember neither the name of the street nor the
number. Indeed, she had never heard either. She
had been too ill to take any notice at first, and
her mind had been very full of other things after-
wards. She remembered having driven from place
to place; but cudgel her brains as she would, she
could remember nothing more!
What was she to do? Go back to her uncle's
house and entreat them to take her in?
Never! She would die first.
By the time she had reached London it was very
late — too late to wander about or look for rooms.
She went to the hotel nearest the station and re-
solved to write from there to her uncle. Then she
Alone in London. 131
made a disagreeable discovery. She had spent her
last shilling, and she was not sure that she could
get a cheque cashed here where no one knew her.
At the small town nearest to Burlington she might
have had everything done; now she felt extremely
helpless. If she gave her cheque, it would put
her into a terribly awkward position if the landlord
refused to cash it. What was she to do? She
sat down and wrote to her uncle, and confident of
his coming to her at once and of his putting ever}'-
thing right for her, she asked the people at the
hotel to send the note for her. In about an hour the
messenger returned. The house was shut up and no
one was there.
Terribly put out by this fresh misfortune, Mrs.
Burlington refused any refreshment, afraid of incur-
ring expense, and crept into bed fasting, which did
not conduce to her comfort. It was wonderful to
her how she came to find herself in this extra-
ordinary position. In all her life such a want had
132 A Brilliant Woman.
never touched her, and she lay sleepless, thinking
over her future plans, and how she was to get out
of her difficulty next morning. It occurred to her
that she might find the address of the doctor who
had attended her, and summon him to her aid, and
when this thought came to her she fell asleep.
NEAR THE NORTH LODGE.
The North Lodge, as it was called, which faced
the woods of Wyncote Hundred, stood a little apart
from the gate ; and between the park gates and the
Wyncote Woods ran a narrow road — one of those
country roads which at one time or another had
been a high road, and that, owing to improvements,
railroads, and other and shorter roads, had dropped
into disuse, and was in a great measure overgrown
with turf, affording now only an eccentric path for
riding or walking. A few yards up stood a cottage
on the Wyncote property; a pretty garden with
134 -^ Brilliant Woman.
flowers and espaliers, fruit and flowers in friendly
companionship, sloped down to the narrowed road.
Up the grassy banks were those lovely wild flowers
that form the joy of children and botanists alike.
The cottage had the well-kept look which charac-
terises one in the hands of some one of refinement.
The flowers were carefully tied up, and the masses
of colour, arranged very artistically, made a brilliant
setting for the pretty little place.
Inside the place was extremely pretty. The walls
were distempered in pale grey and very pretty
original groups of flowers here and there gave an
unusual charm, and formed a subdued yet a very
cheerful background to dainty furniture, evidently
retrieved from some place of far greater imp ortance,
and yet not too large for the modest size of the
rooms. Entering, one had an impression that it
was more the boudoir of a grande dame in some
chateau than the one sitting-room of a very small
two-storied cottage. The one occupant of the room
Near the North Lodge. 135
was a small, slightly deformed, and yet graceful
woman, with silvery white hair and very large dark
She had some exquisitely fine church work on
her lap, which she had been doing till the waning
light put a stop to her occupation. She lay in her
high-backed chair with its two arms supporting her
little white hands, waiting for the light she had
called for. The expression of her eyes was melan-
choly, but her mouth, with its upward curve, be-
trayed a temperament more fitted for laughter than
tears. She was more interesting than beautiful,
there was so much expression in her face. Her
servant brought in a lamp, set it down, drew the
curtains, and fastened the shutters, and in a few
minutes returned with a cup of chocolate and some
rusks. Mrs. Kingson — for it was indeed !Mrs. Bur-
lington's mother — smiled her thanks, and for that
one moment her eyes lost their look of melancholy,
and smiled also.
136 A Brilluint Woman.
The servant did not speak, but nodded and left
the room. vShe was deaf and dumb.
Mrs. Kingson sipped her chocolate and eat her
rusks with the abstracted air of one whose mind is
preoccupied, and who simply eats to live. " T am
fanciful and stupid," she said aloud, and, rising,
took her lamp in her hand and went to find a book.
She was difficult to please. One volume after
another was looked at and rejected, and she was
still standing undecided, when a step on the gravel
startled her. In a few moments her servant came
in with a card — Mr. Wyncote's. Her mistress signed
to her to let him come in, and old Mr. Wyncote
came in. He shook hands, and sat down facing her.
" You have news, " she said, in a voice of re-
pressed excitement ; " it is kind of you to come. "
" I have news, and very good news, for you. "
She pressed her hands together with a sudden,
peculiar gesture, and did not speak.
" Miss Burlington has sent me to you as her
Near the North Lodge. 137
ambassador," he said, speaking very quietly, and
watching her face.
She grew very pale, but she still kept silence.
Her eyes never left his face.
" It is her great wish to see you. When Mrs.
Burlington — when your daughter returns, Miss Bur-
lington wishes her to find you friends."
" It is very wonderfiil, " she said, in a dreamy
voice ; " after all these years. "
Mr. Wyncote was much relieved. He was so
much afraid of agitation or excitement for her, know-
ing that there was great delicacy, and that the
doctor attributed this delicacy to a very weak heart.
But though he had written to tell her of Maria's
departure, and all that had happened, as far as he
knew it, he was wise enough to feel certain that
no preparation would be of use regarding this, and
that the bare fact simply put before her would be
his best course. He rose and moved over to the
bookshelf, affecting to examine the titles of the books
138 A Brilliant Wotnan.
by the light of the lamp she had hastily set down
on his entrance. Then she spoke, and he went
towards her. " You are so kind, so thoughtful.
Will you tell me more now? Tell me everything."
" I have so little to add to what I have told you.
Mrs. Burlington went abroad to find you, full of
that one idea. She is an impetuous young lady,
it appears. Of course she will not find you, and
she will come back again. Miss Burlington has
always been extremely adverse to her having been
kept in ignorance of her story, and she is very
anxious now tnat you should be at hand, and that
when Mrs. Burlington returns she should see for
herself that you are ..."
" That I am received — that I am considered re-
spectable! Mr. Wyncote, you are an honest and a
good man. Will you tell me the truth ? "
" Will my doing this make dispeace between my child
and her husband ? Will it make her life more difficult ? "
Near the North Lodge. 139
" No, certainly ; why should it ? "
" Because accepting me in the abstract is one
thing; seeing me claim his wife as my own, my
very own, child, is another. He looks good and
kind: but, is he not a little prejudiced? Think
v/ell, ^Ir. Wyncote, I am accustomed to my lot.
I can bear it. I can bear anything," she ex-
claimed with sudden fire and passion — " anything
except spoiling her life .... After all these
years," she added, calming down again, with a sob
in her voice infinitely pathetic to the man who
heard it, and who knew what her life had been,
" do you believe that, from a selfish wish to gratify
my craving for her society, I would risk anything
likely to endanger her happiness ! "
" But, I assure you, all is so clear now in the
eyes of ^liss Burlington and her nephew that there
is no danger of this, and, my dear sister, your
experience, the lessons of your life, are just what
Mrs. Burlington needs. She has a strong will, a
140 A Brilliant IVojiian.
great belief in herself superior to her surroundings.
Pride -when it falls is apt to break something."
" Pray Heaven it be neither a heart nor a high
spirit, " she said, softly. " I am in your hands, Mr.
Wyncote ; when shall I go ? "
" To-morrow. We can go to London together."
She shook her head. " No. I would rather be
alone, go alone! "
" Very well, " he said rising, " I can meet you
in town. Will you go to this address ? " he said,
giving her Miss Burlington's number. " Not in the
first place, of course; but when you are settled.
Where will you go at first?"
" Anywhere, every place is indifferent to me,"
she said, with a voice so faint and exhausted that
he was immediately conscious how much she needed
rest, how tremendously this news affected her, and
how great the control she had exercised over her-
self must have been.
"Suppose you go to the hotel near the station
Near the North Lodge. 141
in London for a day or two?" he suggested. "I
know the people; you would be very comfortable
" An hotel ! " she said, with a gesture of distaste.
" You would not dislike this hotel ; you could be
as quiet as you liked. The landlady was in old
days one of our servants, a nice good woman.
Can you think of a better plan ? "
" No, " she answered, " for so long I have simply
lived in rooms. Till you arranged this charming
place for me I took rooms where I could gei them
nearest her, and rooms somehow never make me
feel at home. I will go to your hotel."
"And I will order rooms for you there. Good
He left her, as always on the rare occasions on
which she received him, with a feeling of intense
respect for her unselfishness and admiration for her
self-control and absence of hysterical protestations.
He had carried through a very difficult communi-
142 A Brilliant Woman.
cation, and she had made it simple and easy for
him. Alas! how one act of folly, the appearance
of wrong, had been allowed to mar and spoil her
whole life! Ignorant of the protection the law
would have given her, and maddened by the insults
and cruelties heaped upon her by a drunkard, she
had taken a step which, while innocent, was pur-
posely made to appear guilty in the eyes of the world.
Who, in these circumstances, would believe in her
innocence? Then, in her anxiety to make up to
her child for an action she was soon made to feel
was wrong, she had given her up.
* * * *
Mr. Wyncote wrote for rooms, and made every
possible arrangement for her comfort. But two
days passed before the poor lady could leave her
room. The agitation the strain, and the reaction,
told upon her, and a prolonged fainting fit forced
her to keep her bed — too ill to fret over delay, too
full of suffering to note the flight of time. Then
Near the North Lodge, 143
she started, attended by her deaf and dumb maid ;
and, by one of those accidents which are common
enough in life, but which we call extraordinar}^
mother and daughter for the first time for years
were under the same roof, utterly unaware of it,
passing each other in the hall as strangers.
ON HER FOOTSTEPS.
Mr. Burlington waited in Paris to receive his let-
ters. He had a conviction that his wife, acting on
her impulse, would write when she had decided
upon her course of action. He knew her so well
now — swift decision, without giving him a chance
of opposing her plans, then an anxiety to make
amends. How often he thought over the position
in which she had been put, and how severely he
blamed himself for having allowed ^Mrs. Kingson's
plausible and urgent representations to w^eigh with
him against his better judgment. If we look back
On her Footsteps. 145
at our lives dispassionately, is it not true that the
misery or unhappiness of our lives brings the words
" if only " more bitterly to our lips than any others?
Things which we strove to achieve, and which we
thought of such consequence that we never rested
till we had achieved them, appear insignificant by
the light of experience — dwarfed by the fruitless
results that followed our hardly-won success. And,
on the other hand, trifles we thought so unimpor-
tant have consequences that follow us through all
our lives, and affect our happiness, and often the
happiness of others.
Now, as j\Ir. Burlington had justly foreseen,
Maria's newly-born sense of all her husband had
done for her and her own new sense of an affec-
tion — all unconsciously betrayed to him — had made
the letter which she had sent from Kensington, and
which he received in Paris, one unlike any he had
ever received from her. Here he also heard from
Aunt Anne about Air. Wyncote's visit. Already
VOL. III. 10
146 A Brilliant Woinan.
he was thinking of his wife as one more sinned
against than sinning; now he threw reason to the
winds, and forgot that she had ever offended. He
followed in her track to Angers, made inquiry, and
landed finally at the hotel where she had last been.
Miss Lavinia Jemima Stocks was there, and lost
no time in introducing herself to him as one who
had made great friends with his wife. This he much
doubted, but he responded to her civilities, as she
could give him the most recent information about her.
She doled out her news in a way that much
irritated him, but he soon found that if he did not
allow her to tell her story her own way, he was
not likely to hear it at all.
" Wall, " she said, " your wife ran round here in
a very remarkable way. She was as active as
popped corn on a frying-pan, and I can't say more
than that. Just once in the twenty-four hours I
saw her, and that's a fact. But I know where she
went for all that. Is your wife a Roman ? "
On her Footsteps, 147
" If you mean is my wife a member of that
Church, she is not. "
" If you like to use sixteen dozen words to express
a meaning I put in one, you may, " said Miss
Stocks, with a superb smile. "We Americans go
to the point at once, and we say out just what we
think without circumnavigation. "
Mr. Burlington expressed his impatience and his
sense of amusement, and merely bowed.
" Wall — if she's not a Roman why did she go to
the convent, stay in the convent, and come back
from the convent with eyes the colour of cochineals
squashed ? " asked Miss Stocks. " A little of the
black gowns, long faces, and grey walls and gloom
and all the rest of it goes a very long way with me
and with all rational people who are not hysterical
idiots; and your wife seemed to be 'cute — for a
Britisher — and it didn't strike me she was hysterical."
" !My wife came to find a relative, and was much
disappointed and grieved at not finding her. "
1^8 A Brilliant Wonian.
" Oh, I suppose she put that in the letter she
wrote you from here. You see she said she had a
husband. Wall, of course, that might be true, and
again it might not ; but I saw your name and
address on the letters because I made it my business
to look," said Miss Stocks, coolly. "Not that
addressing your letter and writing one to you proves
that you are her husband,"
" Of course not, " said Mr. Burlington, seeing that
the last course had come, and conscious of pure
gratitude that dinner was nearly over.
" Wall, I will say you have not much gift in the
talking way. Why, you have hardly said twelve
words since you sat down, and those twelve were
not remarkable words — that's a fact."
Mr. Burlington laughed. "I am extremely tired.
I have a great deal to occupy my thoughts just
now. I am a dull companion, for I am thinking of
"Wall, that's frank!" exclaimed Miss Stocks,
On her Footsteps. 149
wheeling round on her chair, and gazing at him in
some perplexity. " You've come from England. You
don't travel with your wife. That's odd. She says
she has lots to think of You say the same thing.
She goes to the convent. I dare say you are going
there too. If you do just alike, think alike, and
act alike, what I want to know is, why aren't you
together?" said Miss Stocks, eying him sideways
as she spoke.
"You see, we do not discuss our private affairs
with strangers," said Mr. Burlington, who had got
beyond the stage of being amused, and was now
intensely bored by the woman beside him.
" Wall, " said Miss Stocks, " that beats creation
and everything else. Those very words are Mrs.
Burlington's words. She is Mrs. Burlington, I
" She is my wife, and I must go now. I have
business," said Cyril curtly.
" You're wrong to cut your meal short. There's
150 A Brilliant Wommi.
a tart coming— and fruit ? " said Miss Stocks very
Mr. Burlington waited for neither of these temp-
tations. He hurried to his room, and went from
there to get a voiture, and drove to the convent.
He went with much anxiety. It was only natural
that, as regarded Maria's mother, he took perhaps
the worst view of her conduct. The story Mr.
Wyncote told sounded so incredible, so romantic.
And romance to many minds appears in the light
of wrong. To a prosaic mind what is out of the
beaten path has a flavour of harm, and Mr. Bur-
lington, reared in somewhat narrow lines had almost
as much to unlearn, almost as many prejudices to
get rid of, as his wife had to learn the lesson of
life and respect prejudices founded on principle.
His interview with the Mother Superior was one
he never forgot. He was deeply touched to find
how generously and lovingly his wife had spoken
of him, and he was more thankful than he could
On her Footsteps. 151
say to hear all that the good old nun told him
about his mother-in-law. It seemed strange to think of
her as living, and living near him still, he believed.
Of course there were many difficulties. People
might talk, and their talk might be ill-natured; but
^\^th his firm belief now in all that he was told in
the present which tallied exactly with ^Ir. Wyncote's
story of the past, he felt afraid of nothing.
The Alother Superior was much taken with her
visitor, and she approved of him still more when he
left her a most liberal donation for her poor. Afraid
of encountering ]\Iiss Stocks, he drove to the door
of the hotel, paid his bill, claimed his luggage, and
was on his way to Paris before that inquisitive
person had realised that he had gone much in the
fashion in which his wife had departed, " like two
puffs of smoke." " Very remarkable people, very re-
markable people ! but well-matched on the whole,
fitted to run in the same tram car," said Miss La-
152 A Brilliant WoDian.
Mr. Burlington hardly tarried anywhere. He
hurried to London as if every second was of impor-
tance, and arrived there one fine morning early, to
find every one asleep, no fires, and all the immense
discomfort of an unexpected arrival, for which he
had only his own impetuosity to thank.
WANTED, AN ADDRESS.
It seemed a very simple thing to Mrs. Burlington
to name her doctor, and ask for his address, till
she found that five of the same name flourished in
the directory without an " e " at the end of their
names, and more than a dozen with an " e. " Earl
or Earle seemed no uncommon name. This was
very perplexing! It was much more perplexing to
see palpable hesitation in the face of the manager
when she requested him to cash her cheque on a
country bank. She had not a single shilling in
change, and her bank book, her visiting cards,
154 ^ Brilliant Woman.
every proof of her identity were most carefully
locked up at home, or rather in Kensington, where
she had left her desk and other belongings. Her
trouble and her anxiety told against her in the
manager's eyes. She had come downstairs dressed
to go out, and she stood before him changing
colour, and looking " odd " he thought to himself.
No one could blame him ; she had next to no
luggage, and no maid; and yet she represented
herself as the wife of a well-known country gentle-
man of means. Appearances were against her, it
must be allowed. As she stood there hesitating
and more completely nonplussed than she had ever
been in her life, the manager saying " I'll telegraph
to the bank, and if it's all right the money will be
given to you then," a very refined, gentle voice
made itself heard. " Can I be of use to you ? I can
cash your cheque for you. "
" Oh, thank you, " said Mrs. Burlington, gratefully.
Then, . seeing a stranger, she added, " You do not
Wanted, an Address. 155
know me any more than this man does. I cannot
allow you, a stranger, to do it for me. I can wait
till an answer comes by telegraph. "
"You need not wait. "
The money was put into her hand, and the lady
was hurrying away without the cheque till Mrs.
Burlington went after her, and gave it to her.
" I am so very grateful to you, " she said ; " may
I not know the name of one who has done me so
great a kindness ? "
The lady gave a reply so indistinct that Mrs.
Burlington did not hear it; and, judging from her
manner that she did not wish to be known, she
was too well-bred to insist. Poor Mrs. Kingson in
the meantime gained her own room, quite over-
powered by the meeting and the nearness of the
child she so passionately longed to declare herself
to. Her maid was alarmed by her agitation and
illness, but gave her the usual remedies with the
deft fingers of those, who deprived of one or more
156 A Brilliant Wo man.
senses, possess redoubled faculties in other directions.
Mrs. Kingson rallied, but lay long in semi-
darkness and quietness thinking with the overw^helm-
ing joy subdued by doubt of the accident which
had brought her daughter within her reach. Sud-
denly a great dread came to her. What was she
doing here apart from her husband ? Why was she
alone, and Avhat was the difficulty with that cheque?
Alarmed, filled with a vague fear that all her
sacrifices had been in vain, she rose as soon as she
was able, and asked for Mrs. Burlington.
She was directed along a passage close to her
own room, and was shown into a small bedroom,
looking very uncomfortable, and occupied evidently
by one who was not accustomed to look after
herself, and who was bewildered by finding herself
in such a position. Looking among the general
untidiness distinctly forlorn, Mrs. Burlington was
standing with the overgrown directory on a small
chest of drawers trying to make out the particular
Wanted, mi Address. 157
Dr. Earle who had attended her in her illness. She
turned round as ]\Irs. Kingson's dainty and graceful
figure appeared at the door, and went with a smile
Mrs. Kingson commanded her voice, and said
gently, " I came to ask you if you would come to
my sitting-room. It is more comfortable than this ; "
and she looked round at her dreary room.
Something peculiar in the voice and accent struck
Mrs. Burlington. She said impulsively, " You remind
me of some one. . . I cannot tell who it is. iVh !
It is the Alother Superior at the Convent at An-
Mrs. Kingson made no reply. But she invited
Maria by a gesture with a pretty mixture of entreaty
and wilfulness to follow her to her sitting-room ;
and Mrs. Burlington obeyed her.
A sense of comfort after feeling so forlorn came
to Maria. There was a pleasant cheerful fire burn-
ing; flowers — that look of being surrounded with
158 A Brilliant IVojuan.
interests of some kind, which makes the difference
as a rule between hotel life and any other, made
the room comfortable.
Mrs. Kingson drew an arm-chair forward, and
Mrs. Burlington sat down, and leaned back feeling
all at once that she had been unutterably dreary,
and that the dreariness had gone. wShe would not
again ask her kind acquaintance her name, but she
had a dreamy sense of somewhere long ago having
heard this voice, and seen those eyes.
It w^as Mrs. Kingson who opened the conversa-
tion, if it can properly be called conversation, where
one interrogates skilfully and draws answers from
another almost against their knowledge, and cer-
tainly without their intention.
" You are worried just now," began Mrs. King-
son," and you are not accustomed to act for your-
self — to be by yourself. Can I help you ? let me
help you! How is it? Will you tell me what has
happened ? "
Wanted, an Address. 159
Her manner grew more eager, her words came
more rapidly as she went on. Her anxiety was
intense. Running through her mind was always this
thought: If my life-long sacrifice has been in vain!
Maria had at first a natural disinclination to tell
her difficulty to a stranger. She turned over in
her own mind what she could say and Avhat she
could leave unsaid. If she left something unsaid,
how was she to justify herself in relating her ad-
ventures, and she knew justification was necessary ?
"You are thinking," said Mrs. Kingson, reading
her hesitation aright in a manner startling to the
younger woman — "you are thinking how much
you will tell me — how much you will leave out.
Well, I beg you will tell me nothing, nothing!
I have no right to ask . . . But if I wanted to
help, believe me it is not because I am curious or
inquisitive that I also wanted to know. Without
knowing your need, how can I help?"
A vibration of what appeared to Mrs. Burlington
i6o A Brilliant Womaji.
wounded pride struck her painfully. This lady had
trusted to her word. A stranger, she had solved
a difficulty for her, and upon her side she had
accepted her help.
" My need is so momentary that I feel ashamed
of having been worried by it, " she answered, with a
nervous laugh ; " and there is so much that is absurd
and foolish in the whole story that I am ashamed of
telling it to any one ! " .She laughed as she spoke, and
her laugh this time was a spontaneous natural laugh
that dispelled Mrs. Kingson's fears. No woman
having done very wrong could laugh in that way.
"Ah!" she said, "your need must indeed be very
transitory. It does me good to hear you laugh."
"I hardly know where to begin; but the end is
so far that I have no notion where my husband is ;
and, though when the letter, I have sent him to be
forwarded from home, does reach him it will be all
right — at least I hope so! — I cannot send for him ;
I have no idea of his address in London."
Wanted, an Address. i6i
" You do not know his address or where he is.
You were then — parted ?" Mrs. Kingson's tone
was full of an implied rebuke as if she said, " and
yet you can laugh!"
"It sounds very silly, but the truth is this," said
Maria: "I heard something that fretted and dis-
turbed me very much ... I will tell you ever3rthing,
and you can judge. I believe you will not judge
me too hardly!
" I was brought up believing myself an orphan.
I was much made of, and all I said and did was
seemingly right ... I was told a man was passion-
ately attached to me, and I married him. It is
true I was talked into it. All indirectly. Though I
did not deserve it, my husband is the kindest, the
best . . . He is so indulgent and so good ! . . I
committed a thousand follies, and he forgave them !
I spoiled his career. I made mischief between him
and his best friend . . . You see, I believed in
myself, and gave himi credit for knowing nothing.
VOL. III. I I
1 62 A Brilliaiit WomaJi^
Two years had passed. Then I found that I was
not an orphan— that my mother lived. At least, no
one knew of her death.
" There was a story about her. I never believed
it ; but some people did. What affected me almost
as much was the fact (and it was a fact!) that my
husband had been tricked into marrying me, while
I, on my side, had been influenced by the person
who brought me up. In short, we had married without
any real love on either side. It sounds dreary enough,
does it not?" she said, turning to the motionless
figure, who was screening her face from the fire
and from her visitor's observation.
"It does, indeed!"
"I could not bear the position of things ! I wrote
to my husband, who was away at the time. I still
think he ought to have answered my letter — he
" I cannot say ; it is so unlike him. "
Wanted, an Address. 163
" You are certain it reached him?"
" Quite certain. "
"You sent it; posted it yourself?"
" I gave it to my uncle. "
"And perhaps his ^\dfe — he has a \vife? she
may have kept it back."
"It is not likely," but as she spoke it flashed
across her that no one could depend upon what
^Irs. Kingson might or might not do. " My anxiety
to know the truth about my mother pressed upon
me terribly. I kept saying to myself, if she was
good and innocent, it seemed strange her having
left m.e to be brought up by others, and yet I never
believed in her being anything but good!
"You spoke?" she added, as the woman beside
her made some inarticulate sound.
" I think it was nice of you, good of you, very
good, to believe nothing against your mother. Ap-
parently, circumstances looked unfavourable."
" It was not goodness, " said Maria, frankly ; " it
164 A Brilliant Woman,
was not altogether goodness. I am somehow always
inclined to believe in the opposition. I suppose I
"Ah, I see."
" Looking back, I see now that all these new
ideas, this suddenly being thrust down from my
pinnacle, upset my health, and I must have had fever
when I left home. ... I was very ill, and every-
thing seems a dream to me now. I tried to find
an old governess. I came away quite determined
to know the truth. This governess was dead, and
the comical part of my present position now comes
in. I was so ill when I got into rooms in Kensing-
ton, so desperately ill and delirious, and so ill when
my husband arrived, and I was moved to a house
he took for me in Kensington, that I do not know
the name of the street, or its number, and I think
he is there. I am hunting up my doctor, because, of
course, he will know, and that will save my waiting ! "
and her tone said how tired she was of waiting.
Wanted, an Address, 165
" It is a comical predicament ; that is your word,
is it not?"
" Yes. After my illness I left the house, taking
a maid for the time with me. I did not care very
much about her; but she was a good courier maid,
and I went to France."
" I cannot think how in your state of health — you
look so delicate --your husband allowed you to
undertake a long journey by yourself!"
" Ah ! you see, I never told him. I feel now how
wrong I have been ; but I made a vow that I never
would see him till I could stand before him with
my mother cleared; her name untarnished."
A suppressed sob broke ft-om the listener beside her.
"You are surprised," asked Maria, astonished at
the impression she was making on this stranger.
"I am — surprised," she answered in a low voice;
"is there not something about leaving your parents
and cleaving to your husband or wife?"
"Mine was not an ordinary case. But I am sorry
1 66 A Brilliant Woman.
now, because writing would have done quite as well.
I went to Angers to the convent there. I had a
clue, and that was really the only way I learned
anything. I saw the Mother Superior. I have been
quite happy ever since. I can admire and love ray
" Though she acted very wrongly, foolishly, but
she did not know, I suppose, then how wrong
" You must not blame her. My poor mother !
When I find her I will try to make amends."
"And you have not found her?"
"I am no longer looking for her. My object
now is to put my proofs into my husband's hands,
and say to him, 'You cannot object now you know
what she is. Find her out for me, and let us be
happy together.' " She lowered her head, and went
on, " When we once meet, my mother and I, can
you imagine what it will be to me? Ah! to owe
this happiness to my husband will be so much to
Wanted, an Address. 167
me; T see I have tired you with my long story,
but I could not tell you one half, and leave the
rest untold, because one part explains the whole."
She spoke to ears that heard her not. Mrs. King-
son had lest consciousness. To summon her maid,
and try to help her, was Mrs. Burlington's first
thought. But, as she could not speak to the dumb
woman, and she appeared to be irritated by her
presence, ;he was preparing to go when Mrs. King-
son recovered. "It is not your fault," she said
gently, in m exhausted voice. " I often have these
attacks. ^W. will be well with you, " she murmured,
" and now I must rest. "Will you . . , May I kiss
you before you go — for your mother's sake." Sur-
prised but touched at having interested a stranger
so deeply, VEaria stooped her face over that of the
prostrate figire, and was startled by the fervent and
passionate Isses given her. Then she went out of
When she had gone Mrs. Kingson spoke rapidly
A Brilliant Woman.
on her fingers to her maid, and sent a telegram off.
wShe asked for her drops, and sank into a refreshing
quiet slumber. Her face had changed. The sad
and melancholy look had given way to a complete
calm, a look as if a load had been lifted off her
mind, and the curved lips were parted is if a long
continued strain had been removed.
Mrs. Burlington was surprised to ind that, in
the interim, her room had been changed to one
much nearer the strange lady whose nane she did
not know, and a sitting-room opened »ff it. She
accepted the additional comfort gladly. " I suppose
my respectability is vouched for by telqram," she
said to herself
There was nothing for it but to rait till her
letter to her husband, addressed to Buiington, was
forwarded to his proper address. Se felt ex-
tremely lonely. She had no books and jo work with
her, her new friend was ill, and she culd not dis-
turb her. She felt very sorry for hrself, and it
Wanted, an Address. 169
was a new experience to so brilliant a person to
Through it all, however, came the felt relief about
her mother, and her thankfulness made her tolerate
the disagreeables of her situation more patiently
than one could have imagined possible in one so
impetuous and impulsive.
A knock at the door roused her from a perfect
whirl of conflicting thoughts. Turning her head
carelessly and expectantly to answer some question,
probably about lights, she saw a tall figure come
into the room and the door close behind him.
Springing to her feet, she faced him. He made
a step forward, and IVIrs. Burlington, who had so
prided herself upon her brilliant manner of carr>dng
everything through by herself, gave a cry of relief
and satisfaction as she literally flung herself into
her husband's arms, outstretched to recei\^e her.
TOGETHER AT LAST.
Mrs. King son had telegraphed to Mr. Burlington,
having the address furnished by Mr. Wyncote of
his house in Kensington. She would not make
herself known to her daughter till her husband
himself sanctioned the meeting. Mr. Wyncote had
taken her good news, and the woman who had put
herself upon one side for so many years was not
going now to spoil her newly-offered happiness by
precipitation. It was due to her child's husband
that he should be the one to unite them, and she
had been content to wait.
Together at Last. 171
But to hear her child, her own darling, defending
her had been almost too much for the poor lady.
The drops given by her maid had produced a deep,
dreamless slumber, and when Mrs. Burlington had
gone to say good-bye before leaving the hotel with
her husband she was obliged to write her a note,
as the lady was still in a profound sleep, and, of
course, no one wished to arouse her.
" Have you any idea who that lady was who
has shown you so much kindness, " Cyril asked his
wife as they were turning up the road that led to
his house in Kensington.
" No, dear, not the least idea ; and I hope you
will not try to find out, because I think she wishes
her name not to be known. I asked her at first,
and she murmured something purposely very indis-
tinct. I felt I could not press the question."
Aunt Anne was ready with a kind welcome; but
Maria saw that here she had lost ground to re-
cover. The elderly lady, indeed, had a struggle with
172 A Brilliant Woman.
herself not to show her annoyance. So much trou-
ble! Such anxiety! So much running here and
there, and so much discomfort. It was all very
well for Cyril to wipe away all traces of resentment,
and to welcome his wife as if all she had done had
been done with his sanction.
She saw the foolish, impulsive self-will, and did
not see as much as Cyril saw —the illness coming
on, the harassed mind, the reaction, and all else.
Of course. Aunt Anne was not in love; and Cyril
was. For the first time in all his life he was really
honestly in love, and with his own w^ife. It need
not be taken as an encouragement to eccentric per-
formances, but the fact remains. He was immensely
absorbed now^ with the coming meeting, between
the mother and daughter, and he w^orried poor Aunt
Anne much by discussing the subject with her
without ceasing when Maria, tired out by all the
emotions of the day, had gone to lie down.
"You see, dear Aunt Anne, Maria is not very
Together at Last. 173
strong, and Mrs. Kingson has heart complaint."
"Joy seldom hurts anyone, and of course it will
be joy on both sides."
"It will be great joy."
"And when they have met, how is it to be?"
" How do you mean? What do you mean? " he
asked, a little startled by her seriousness.
" Do not think I grudge those two this happiness ;
very far from it. It is right. But, Cyril, my dear,
dear boy, once together, you will never be able
to part them, and are you prepared to have a dancer
— an uneducated person, however good— at Bur-
lington, for all time ? "
Cyril had not reflected on this side of the ques-
tion, and the matter put before him in this light
" She may be everything that is charming ; " he
exclaimed. " I cannot imagine Maria's mother any-
" But still you have never seen her. She may be
174 ^ Brilliant Woman.
vulgar, and anything but a desirable inmate in your
" She may be ; but it is against my convictions, "
he said slowly.
" And once at Burlington — your wife's mother —
you cannot turn her out of your house. Once
there she will be there always," insisted Miss Burling-
ton^ firmly. " Then there are the neighbours. "
" Yes, " he said slowly, " there are the neigh-
bours. What do you yourself advise, Aunt Anne ? "
He spoke in a rather lowered voice, afraid of a
breath coming to Maria's ears.
" Maria is softened. She is grateful for your
ticn; thankful that you raise no obstacle to
her reunion w4th her mother. I think I would, in
your place from the first— just now w^hen she is
peculiarly amenable to reason — put the difficulties
before her. The stand you take just now will
affect all your life ! "
" You put before me a course of action nothing
Together at Last, 175
will tempt me to follow ! " he said, vehemently.
" No ! My neighbours may act as they like, but I
could no more spoil my wife's happiness than I can
cut myself away from her society. Her mother
may be a very vulgar woman — I do not believe
it! — but whatever she is I shall leave things alone. "
"Very well." Aunt Anne had great sinking of
the heart. She could understand that a woman
could be a dancer, and yet respectable. She had
been prepared to receive her here where she her-
self was unknown ; but she was not prepared to
see her established in the beautiful old place, keep-
ing all Cyril's friends and neighbours away from
him if she was not presentable. She lay awake
that night, tormenting herself, sadly conscious of an
overpowering anxiety to see Mrs. Burlington's
mother, and yet dreading the over-dressed figure
she had conjured up, who would probably have a
very loud voice and a confident manner. Hovr
many miserable moments we give ourselves about
176 A brilliant Woman.
things that either never come near us at all, or are
recognised as blessings when they do come!
All the plans for telling Maria the simple fact
that her mother was in London, that they would
meet in a very few hours, were rejected by Mr. Bur-
lington. He was over anxious about his wife's
health, and yet all the preparation in the world
would fail to be of any use. Directness is always so
much the best thing, and anything else appeared
theatrical to him.
In truth, he thought more of the mother than
even of his wife, whose heart seemed to be in a
perfectly healthy condition. But he said nothing
till the next morning, wishing to spare her the
looking forward which to an impatient temper is so
Next morning, after breakfast, he asked her to
come to his room ; he wished to show her some-
She rose with alacrity. " I also have some things
Together at Last. 177
to show you," she said, speaking with a certain
excitement. " I have the records of my mother's
life to show you. You are, I know, so just. You
will not believe her guilty of any wrong, once you
have read her story."
" It is not necessary for me to read them ; nor,
indeed, do I think there is time. I believe your
mother blameless of all but one act of folly, for
which she has inflicted on herself very terrible
years of loneliness and sorrow."
** You believe in her — oh Cyril ! " IMaria was so
astonished, so overjoyed, that she could say no
more. She took her husband's hand between her
own palms, and pressed it fervently.
" How good you a.re ! " she said.
" No — just, " he answered, with a little sigh.
"Yes; I believe in your mother, and that is one
reasons I have asked her to come to us to-day, " he
said, in a matter-of-fact tone, as if making a very
VOL. III. 12
178 A Brilliant Woman.
For a moment he was afraid he had done wrong.
His wife grew deadly white, and then the bright
carnation tints stole gradually back to lips and
" My mother?" she murmured.
" Yes ; she is no stranger to you, dear. Did not in-
stinct speak at all when you met her at the hotel?"
"My mother!" repeated Maria, with moistened
eyes. "Did she know me?"
" At once. "
" Then why did she let me treat her as a stranger ?
A thousand queries came to her lips, but she
was so bewildered and astonished by the unex-
pected news that she could hardly speak.
Her husband was relieved to find how much
control she had over herself.
" Your mother is very thoughtful and very good
to us, " he said, purposely trying to lead her thoughts
to the present and the future. "She wishes the
Together at Last. i 79
meeting, the reunion, which, poor soul, she has
pined for so long, to come as from me. She had
misgivings and fears — very groundless fears once I
knew the outline of her story— that our happiness
might be marred unless I myself sanctioned the
meeting. You can believe how thankful I am you
should have this happiness. I know how often the
question has disturbed you — and no wonder! "
His wife's eyes were brimming, but she kept back
"I have never seen your mother, dearest, but I
quite understand that this tie once knitted again
cannot be broken."
" And you have never seen her, " said Maria, in
a low voice. She understood all his words implied,
and that, had her mother been far from the gentle,
unassuming woman she was, he was ready to accept
her for her sake. She leaned her cheek against
his big brown hand. "Thank you. You are good
and kind," she said, softly.
i8o A Brilh'ant Woman.
Then her husband warned her about her mother's
health ; for he knew that in telHng her he was wisely
giving her a motive that would more than anything
else enable her to subdue any violent emotion.
While they talked together Mrs. Kingson arrived.
Instead of the overdressed and confident figure Aunt
Anne had expected, instead of the loud-voiced and
somewhat underbred person Mr. Burlington had
dreaded, there came towards them a lady delicately
formed, unspeakably graceful in manner, with a sweet,
low-toned voice, and almost a timid and beseeching
expression. Mr. Burlington greeted her warmly,
and so did Aunt Anne.
Mrs. Kingson looked around her. " My child ? "
she asked, in a still lower voice.
"Maria is here," answered Mr. Burlington; and
as he spoke he led her to the library door, opened
it, and shut it after her again, and left the two
alone and together.
" My dear Cyril ! " said Aunt Anne, "I am so
Together at Last. i8i
thanktul, so relieved! How could I make myself
so utterly miserable? Maria's mother ig "
" Maria's mother, " answered Mr. Burlington, anx-
ious not to betray even to Aunt Anne what his
own preconceived notions had been.
Then they looked at each other and laughed.
How unutterably foolish they had been!
Aunt Anne was the first to recover.
" I retract ever3rthing I ever said about her, my
Cyril did not answer. But his satisfaction was
certainly not less than hers.
WAS IT THE LAST OF FLORA HARRINGTON ?
Mrs. Burlington had one great disappointment in
store, and once again Aunt Anne was led to understand
how much unnecessary misery she had made for herself.
Mrs. Kingson would not go to Burlington Manor
and make one of the family party. She had a
great many reasons against acquiescing in such an
arrangement, and Mr. Burlington was obliged to
own that from her point of view she was right.
" Make as much of me as you like, " she said,
frankly, to her son-in-law, "it is due to your wife
that the world should know I am not a mother she
Was it the last of Flora Harrington ? 1 83
need be ashamed of; but after this fact is established,
there are those two things in my career I so bitterly
regret now. I cannot myself get over these terrible
mistakes. People may be kind, but you cannot
expect them to get over them any more than I can.
I have my pretty home. I have my child's society.
I accept from you, as her most kind husband,
luxuries I never dreamed of, and every possible
comfort. I am quite the happiest woman in the
world now! Leave me my independent life, and
come often to see me — the oftener the better.
Believe me, it is so best."
Maria, who had drawn a picture in her own
mind of her mother's perpetual companionship, was
" Ah, child, " said Mrs. Kingson, " you see only a
little way into the future. To the older and more
experienced woman a longer peep is given. Why
should you depend upon my companionship? You
have all your life done well without it."
184 A Brilliant Woman.
" That is why I want it now, mother, I have
years and years of loss to make up for."
" And the companionship of your husband ?
Supposing you and I were hving under the same roof,
my dariing, your anxiety to ' make up ' would bring
you from his side to mine. You owe him much ! "
" I love him dearly ! Oh ! mother, when one
loves, gratitude seems a cold word ! "
" In one sense. You are happy, darling, and it
sometimes frightens me when I think of all the
risks you ran. You might have lost his affection
instead of winning it."
"I also think that sometimes."
" Then, also, never forget this : a woman owes
it to herself — to society — not to put herself into
any position which is not forced upon her. There
is much more meaning than young people ever seem
to think in these days — to *do your duty in that
state of life unto which it pleases God to call
you.' Would I had thought this long ago."
Was it the last of Flora Harrington? 185
" But when a high motive urges one on. "
" Ah, my child, the end never justifies the means
when the means are wrong. You must not depend
on sophistry when you wish to argue with a woman
who has proved those very arguments to be
" But you helped your mother — your father. ..."
"Darling, I might have done other things; I
loved the applause, the success .... I might
have had patience. The young do not look forward
enough. They never see the consequences of their
actions If they only did .... By my own
folly I lost my position. Then, to get rid of
my wretchedness, I simulated a crime I would have
died rather than commit. Now I have to suffer
for it. Please God, you do not suffer! For my-
self, " she added, folding her hands together, " I
acknowledge that my past suffering is just. I have
deserved it ! "
Against this reasoning Maria had nothing to
1 86 A Brilliant Woman.
oppose save affectionate entreaty. It was by Mr.
Burlington's own wish that Mrs. Kingson travelled
with them. She was much fatigued, and drove
straight from the railway station home with her
maid. As Maria and her husband drove through
the park, she could not help contrasting her emotions
now with her self-complacency on her arrival, and
as with a full heart she was thinking with intense
thankfulness of the richness come into her life, her
mother's words, "what she had risked," came to
her, and, with an involuntary movement, she laid
her hand on her husband's. He understood her
now, and sympathised so entirely with her!
The light lay softly upon the tree tops, and
sparkled on the windows.
"It is like an illumination," said Mr. Burlington.
"It is all so beautiful, and it is home," said his
Mrs. Butt and her troop of servants stood in the
hall to receive them; and there was no feigned
Was it the last of Flora Harrington? 187
joy on her face. If she imperfectly understood all
that had happened, it was an immense satisfaction
that any gossip or ill-natured comments on the pro-
longed absence of the family, and those expressions
of surprise at so sudden a departure of the mistress
of the household could be put an end to. No class
feels more deeply a slur on the family than that of
old servants bound to it by ties of sincere attach-
ment, and deriving their own status from its
It seemed to Maria as if everything reminded
her of some stupid speech, something she had said
that might have been left unsaid. Aunt Anne
had gone to her own house, happier than she had
yet been since the morning she so well remem-
bered, when she had been troubled by Cyril's letter
announcing his engagement. Husband and wife
were in the dining-room together. The servants
had left the room, and Maria, laughing, looked
meaningly at the pictures. Cyril followed her gaze,
1 88 A Brilliant Woman.
and in his turned laughed. " You still challenge
their originality ? " he asked gaily. " I do not, for
some reason or another, care half so much about
" I challenge nothing. If you told me you had
painted them yourself, and painted them with your
elbow, I should believe you ! "
" I am not sure that that is a great compliment
to the paintings."
"I was not thinking of them at all. I mean
that I feel as if I could never contradict you again.
I am quite afraid of the state of my mind. I
am sure that it cannot last. I feel so much too
" I do trust that you will occasionally contradict
me, otherwise our lives may be too monotonous."
" Seriously speaking, Cyril, what I want most
to know is, what can we do about my mother.
That is the first most pressing question. Oh, we
must put her right in everyone's eyes ! "
Was it the last of Flora Harrington? 189
" Believe me, dear, leave it to time. You cannot
force people to believe what you want them to
" Waiting seems hard, and she has been so
wronged. IMy poor mother ! "
" Waiting does seem hard ; but you must allow
people to find out for themselves what your mo-
ther is ; no words of yours, none of mine — nothing
we can say will have the effect that she herself will
have when her character, her manner, all else that
is admirable about her become known ? "
" But if my mother will go nowhere, if she will
see no one, how are people to know ? "
" In the first place we will persuade her to come
to us when one or two influential people are here.
It is wonderful how soon truth spreads, especially
when it is the object of no one to conceal it."
Maria felt that she could say no more.
Mr. Burlington himself was both willing and
anxious to put this matter as far right as possible;
I go A Brilliant Woman,
but he knew only too well that the very people
whom his wife wished to conciliate and convince
were those who must be left to arrive at conclu-
sions by themselves, and that any attempt to argue
or convince would result in nothing. They were
essentially the people who, " convinced against
their will, " would remain " of the same opinion
still." In the meantime in the neighbourhood there
was some excitement. Kindly expressions were
heard from those who had the rule of kindness;
ill-natured speeches from those carping, disagree-
able people who are very ill-natured about every-
thing. Every one was a little anxious to know whether
Mrs. Burlington's mother would "show," or whether
she would shun people.
The Duchess lost no time in going over to
luncheon, and it was known that she had done so,
and after this visit the neighbourhood went also,
with one exception — Mrs. Adleybourne. So little
did Maria notice her defection that when one lady,
Was it the last of Flora Harrtngtoit f 191
a little anxious to slip in a small sting, asked point
blank whether she had been there, Mrs. Burlington's
answer, given with quiet sincerity, defeated the
little bit of ill-nature. " I do not quite remember. So
many people have been here. If Mrs. Adleyboume
has not been of the number she is perhaps absent. "
" Oh 1 she is at home. She had quite a large
party only last week."
" Then, as no one can be in two places at once,
one could not expect her to be here and at home with
her own visitors." This was spoken with so much
open good temper, that nothing more could be said.
Indeed, Maria now was in every way one who
had gained much and lost nothing in the battle of
life, unlike most people. In former days she had
asserted herself unduly, all unconscious that, her
position being undefined, it had in reality forced
her into self-assertion. Now, with her mind at rest,
an attachment to her husband which sprang from
the full knowledge of his generosity and goodness
192 A Brilliant Woman.
towards her, the sense of rest and freedom from all
anxiety connected with her mother gave her spirits
— always elastic— a fillip and yet a softening touch.
Prosperity, like adversity, never works in a half-
hearted way upon anyone. It either softens, or it
hardens a character. In Mrs. Burlington's case it
softened her as adversity never would have done.
While anxious to do nothing to which her husband
could take exception, Maria would not have been
herself if she had not longed to put right any
wrong she had in her ignorance and carelessness
done her husband.
Her ambitious aims were for him now. Any
plans she made were for his benefit, and not her
own ; and the effect of knowing her mother's story
was to cheek undue anxiety about being herself a
prominent figure anywhere. That central position
which she had at one time coveted had melted long
ago it seemed to her, and sometimes with a laugh in
which lay a certain shame, she would tell her
Was it the last of Flora Harringtofi ? 193
mother of her first and earliest ambitions. Aunt Anne
was often at the cottage with Mrs. Kingson, but no
one enjoyed her society more than Mr. Burlington.
He learned a great deal books never would have
taught him — never had taught him. All the solitary
years, all her crushing sorrows, had not deprived
Mrs. Kingson of the wonderful charm and fascina-
tion which appeared now that happiness played
around her once more. Her daughter had inherited
much of her beauty, much of her brilliancy and
charm, but it is doubtful whether she could ever
have sacrificed herself, put herself entirely upon
one side as Mrs. Kingson had done. Then one day,
by one of those accidents of speech that the most
guarded people sometimes fall into, Maria made
Her uncle's wife — whom to forgive she still found
so difficult! — had seen and spoken to her mother,
not once but often. She could have told a great
deal, for the mother had allowed her to know where
VOL. III. 13
194 A Brilliant Woman.
she was, and who she was, and had made once or
twice a humble petition, which the other lady had
refused. She had wished once or twice to see and
have speech with her child, promising to remain
unknown. And Mrs. Kingson had refused, and also
had promised — and not kept her word — to put the
case to her husband, thus putting the onus of the
refusal upon him.
"And you think I should forgive this, also?"
exclaimed Mrs. Burlington, with natural indignation.
"Mother, you are almost a saint, but can you say
you forgive this ? "
" My dearest child, when the heart is overflowing
with happiness there is no room for even remember-
ing these things ! " said Mrs. Kingson, tenderly.
"Perhaps she was right. No one can be expected
to act against their convictions."
Mr. Burlington was surprised late one afternoon
to find his wife sitting in his study, evidently disturbed
and annoyed about something.
Was it the last of Flora Harrington? 195
"I thought you never, never, never were coming,"
she said, lifting her flushed face to his, " and my
courage has been oozing away every moment."
" Your courage ? What is it all about, darling ? "
" I wonder whether my stupidity in the past is to
affect my happiness all my life, " she said, vehemently.
He sat down, and leaned fonvard. " Now tell
me," he said, w^ondering what new phase they were
" It is a long story. It is partly about Flora
Harrington — partly about young Mr. Wyncote. Oh,
if you knew how I hate telling you of my folly,
of my self-will, of my blindness ! "
She stopped to recover herself, and then went on
in a lower voice, holding herself more in restraint.
" To begin with, there is Flora's letter. It is
hateful. But I want you to read it, and to advise
me. " She held out several sheets of very thin letter
paper, covered with Miss Harrington's scrawling
bold handwriting: —
1^6 A Brilliant Woman.
"My dear Molly, — I'm in a terrible mess, out of
which you must please get me as soon as possible.
My young man threatens to break off everything
because some stupid meddling idiot has told him I
carried on with Mr. W., and took him flowers daily,
etc. Please write by return a letter I can show him,
saying that the flowers were from you. This will
put all right. Of course, I know they were not;
but stretch a point for me, and I'll be grateful all
my days. — Your loving Flora."
Mr. Burlington read it, and returned it with a
look of great contempt.
" Advise me ! " pleaded Maria, earnestly.
"How can I, darling? I am no dispassionate
"It is everything for Flora, I suppose, to carry
out her marriage. How can I deliberately say what
is not true ? That is impossible ! "
"I know it is for you," her husband said, in a
voice of feeling.
Was it the last of Flora Harrington? 197
" Is it possible that I ever called this girl my
" It always seemed strange to me. But very
young girls do not look deeply into the origin of
"I remember thinking her very goodhearted and
very amusing. Now I see vulgarity and utter
selfishness, and yet, if I could, I would help her!"
Mr. Burlington could offer no suggestion. He some-
times felt surprised at his wife's absolute unconscious-
ness. She was utterly ignorant of the real state of the
case that, to ingratiate herself with Mr. Wyncote,
Flora had tried to make him believe that Mrs.
Burlington was not indifferent to his attractions.
For he had seen at once what was meant, and,
while he knew his wife to be absolutely innocent
of Flora's machinations, her very innocence puzzled
him. As something of the kind passed again through
his mind, Maria suddenly started to her feet, and
her face flushed deeply.
igS A Brilliant Woman.
"Ah," she said "I never thought of it before in
this way! But do you think it possible that Flora
tried to make Mr. Wyncote look at things — made
him believe that those flowers were from me?"
She looked so ashamed and so distressed that her
husband hastened to calm her.
"Dearest, he knew better; and," he added, in a
lower voice, " I knew better. Never mind what she
tried to do; no one respects you more, no one
does you fuller justice than Wyncote. I may also
tell you that his interpretation was, that you were
longing for some definite news of your mother, and
that any kindness shown him was only to be handed
on to her. He was puzzled, and very naturally,
and you must dismiss it all from your mind now.**
"I will, when I have written to Flora."
She sat down and contemplated her note-paper,
and was fairly at a standstill.
So much hung, apparently, upon her answer,
and yet. . . .
Was it the last of Flora Harrington? 199
At that moment a frantic peal sounded; the front
doorbell rang as it had seldom rung; there was a
bustle, a loud exclamation, and Miss Flora Harrington
(her figure tremendously accentuated by a tight-
fitting gown more aggressively tight than ever)
rushed into the room.
THE MEETING OF OLD FRIENDS.
The surprise and, it may be added, the consterna-
tion in Mrs. Burlington's face were something to
see. Mr. Burlington in after days used to depict
them for her benefit. She was so completely astounded
at being taken by storm by the girl who had behaved
so badly to her that she could only say, " Flora ! "
" Well ! " said Flora, reddening. " It is Flora, but
is that all you have got to say to me— not a single
civil word ? "
" I fail to see how you can expect a civil word, "
said Maria, resentfully. " Is it possible that you do not
The Meeting of Old Friends. 201
feel any compunction for all the mischief you made?"
" Compunction ! Well, I do think that is one
way of putting it ! You ought, on the contrary, to
feel grateful to me all your life ! But for my having
had the courage to bring things to a crisis, you
would never have found your mother, cleared up
everything, and made peace with your husband ! "
Want of breath stopped her, and only that. Maria
flushed red and turned pale alternately.
Mr. Burlington looked on with great amusement,
because Flora, as she now posed, was precisely
what he always conceived her to be — impudent!
She was more than that. Then he saw that his
wife was deeply annoyed, and he rose and went
over to her. " You are hardly strong enough for
any scenes, dear," he said, in his low complacent
voice. " Will you leave Miss Harrington to me,
and I can hear from her what brought her here —
what she wishes you to do for her."
" Oh, as far as that goes, and as Molly has
202 A Brilliant Woman,
changed so much, and you seem now to possess
her confidence, let me say at once— nothing! " an-
swered Flora briskly, "unless she will condescend
to order me a cup of tea. Thanks," as Mr. Bur-
lington rang and gave the order. " Now, I expect
a visitor. I have asked Wyncote, junior, to meet
me here. Don't faint in coils all round, but I tele-
graphed, told him it was important, and asked him
to' come and see me here. You see with a franti-
cally jealous young man in one direction, I could
not go there," and Flora stripped off her long
gloves, pulled off her hat, patted her fluffy head with
the gesture Maria remembered so well, and looked
as much at home as if she was there as the cherished
guest of the master and mistress of the house.
From under her drooping lids, however, she
watched to see whether her announcement had any
effect upon the two on whom she had descended
like an avalanche. Much to her surprise, and cer-
tainly to her discomfiture, they both looked relieved.
The Meeting of Old Friends. 203
Mr. Burlington said instantly, " That is, of course,
the best plan. You must understand, Miss Harring-
ton that I refuse to allow my wife to mix herself up
in this affair in any way, and it is most unfair of
you to expect it."
"All right," laughed Flora, maliciously. "Not
very long ago your saying so would have been the
best way of feeling sure that she would do it! "
Maria, afraid of losing all self-control over herself,
rose abruptly, and left the room, and her husband
Flora looked after them with a curious expression
— a feeling almost of envy at the perfect under-
standing they seemed to have arrived at, an anxiety
about her own future apparently so insecure at
present, and regret at having forfeited a very useful
friendships were all in turn weighing upon her.
She drank her tea when it came, and had begun
her second cup when Mr. Wyncote was shown into
204 A Brilliant Woman,
Flora welcomed him with great satisfaction, offered
him tea, and was so completely disembarrassed and
at her ease, that he wondered whether he had under-
stood her telegram correctly.
" Well, " she said, laughing, " here I am and there
you are! "
" I am here, certainly, " he said gravely. " May I
" You may know nothing if you begin to speak
in that funereal tone. I want you to do me a service ;
nothing deadly. You need not look so alarmed! "
But, though she spoke with a good deal of bravado,
she was much daunted by Mr. Wyncote's grave,
disapproving look. Nothing ever daunted Flora like
what she called want of appreciation. She had a
supreme belief in her own power of charming all
mankind, and she was always immensely disconcerted
when she discovered that her powers were limited —
that certain people were impervious to her methods
The Meeting of Old Friends. 205
" Will you be so good as to say in what way I
can be useful to you ? As a friend of Mrs. Burling-
ton's — for whom I have the very greatest respect —
I shall be glad to serve you, " said the young man,
Then Flora found her request more difficult, and
it was a moment or two before she could find
courage to plunge into it all. " Some one, " she said
at length, trying to throw off the constraint his
manner imposed upon her — "some one has tried to
make mischief between the man I am going to
marry and myself, and said — told him that I had
had a hot flirtation with you! I want you to cor-
roborate my assertion, and say it was not me at all.
I was the go-between, and it was somebody else ! "
In a moment Mr. Wyncote saw what she wanted,
and a feeling of disgust rose in his mind towards
her. How hard she had tried to let him believe
that Mrs. Burlington was " interested " in him.
Just at first he had had a sentimental feeling for a
2o6 A Brilliant Woman.
wife unappreciated by all accounts. How soon he
had lost that feeling he knew. No man worth
anything could blind himself to the fact of Mrs.
Burlington's supreme indifference. Puzzled at first,
he had afterwards thought that she guessed some-
thing of the friendship existing betw^een his father
and Maria's mother, whom he himself hardly ever
saw% and at whose house he used to deposit the
violets and other things, conceiving that if they came
from Mrs. Burlington they must be meant for her.
"Well, Miss Harrington, I am quite ready to
swear, if necessary, that no flirtation existed at any
time between us."
* There are the flowers to be accounted for. That
is a very important point."
" Do you mean that the fact of your giving
flowers from some one else, for somebody else, is
likely to lead you into tribulation ? "
His mocking tone irritated Flora Harrington.
**I want you to say distinctly that I . . ."
The Meeting of Old Friends. 207
"That you never made love to me?" he said,
teasingly. The comical side of it struck him now,
and he had some difficulty in restraining his laugh-
ter. He saw her wince, and he recovered his
former polite tone of indifference.
" I will write with pleasure anything absolutely
true," he said. "Will this do?"
He sat down, and wrote without farther words —
" Dear Miss Harrington,— As you wish me to
assure you of what we both know, I beg to say
that you never at any time were the object of any
attentions on my part, that I never was an admirer
of yours, and that nothing ever passed between us,
save those courtesies common to all indifferent
acquaintances. I remain, truly yours,
Flora took the note, and read it.
She was mortified and angry. What had she
When she raised her head again, she was alone.
2o8 A Brilliant Woman.
She rose, and drew a long breath. Those words
would do; they were brutally true, but, after all,
they would serve her turn — only . . . she had had
a sort of faint hope that she might have drawn
something more complimentary from the man she
herself admired so much. She was putting on her
long gloves when the door opened, and Mr. Bur-
lington came in.
" Miss Harrington, " he said, in a kind tone,
" my wife is distressed that you should hurry away
so fast; vShe feels it inhospitable. I have come to
say we both hope you will stay over the night
" Thank you, " said Flora, a little touched by
consideration she had not deserved; and then, her
vanity suggesting a different reason, she said very
archly. " You are quite, quite sure that your wife
approves of your suggestion ? "
" Quite sure, as the suggestion came from her.
I am ashamed to say that it did not occur to me. "
The Meeting of Old Friends. 209
" All right, " said Flora. " I am glad to stop, as
I have had a cross-country journey, and I am dread-
fully tired. "
Mr. Burlington left her, and was amused to find
that as she had brought luggage and dismissed the
railway cab, the invitation had been in a measure
counted upon as pretty sure to be given.
That evening Flora tried her best to re-establish
relations on the old footing with Mrs. Burlington;
and Maria learned how difficult it was once a woman
had been unguardedly open about her relations with
her husband to draw back into an attitude of reserv^e,
with a girl who had neither tact nor delicacy, and
who refused to see how everything was changed.
She persisted in reminding Mrs. Burlington of
little speeches, arguments, and other things about
indifference towards her husband, and the wife who
imagined that she had been reticent, and had never
betrayed how little love had had to do with her
marriage, had to bear, with ill-concealed impatience
VOL. III. 14
A Brilliant Woman.
at first, and open annoyance afterwards, a repetition
of silly speeches and hcisty words she had herself
forgotten. There were several moments that evening
when she fondly trusted that she would never in
all her life see Flora Harrington again.
THE MEANING OF THE WORD " THANKFULNESS. "
Mr. Burlington was a man who, in his own quiet
way, never lost sight of an object. To his wife's
more impatient spirit the time seemed long as each
day passed, and she seemed no nearer than before
to that one barrier between her and perfect happi-
ness — the clearing of her mother's name. It was
that mother who now preached patience. Indeed,
to one who had herself been so long patient, nothing
now seemed really long. Everyone knew now that
Mrs. Burlington's mother was in the neighbourhood
and often with her, and everyone wished to see her
212 A Brilliant: Woman.
and to judge for themselves what her position in
society had been.
" You see, " as Mrs. Hutchinson remarked, " it is
not so much what she is now, because Mr. Burling-
ton or his wife may have coached her, and she may
be quite presentable, poor thing! Still a doubtful
pas shows itself, and I shall feel really sorry for
that poor Mr. Burlington, and his wife, of course,
also, if the poor woman shows too plainly what her
origin and antecedents have been. "
" And we are certain to notice them, " said Mrs.
Adleybourne, with severity. " I for one have a sort
of instinct about them; something — an innate some-
thing always tells me these things. "
" But do you suppose that we shall be asked to
meet her ? " asked Mrs. Hutchinson.
" Of course not ; certainly not ; but she is always
there. By accident one might see her, and it would
be so awkward. "
" So very awkward. Supposing she was intro-
The Meaning of the Word " Thankfulness. " 213
duced ? " and Mrs. Hutchinson looked like some one
who had received a shock of some kind.
It was a very still, clear, lovely autumnal day
not long after this; and Mrs. Adleyboume was
anxious to break the ice, and call at Burlington;
but she had postponed her visit so long that she
felt it a little difficult. Mrs. Hutchinson was tying
her bonnet strings, and full of a proposed visit in
the same direction, when she saw Mrs. Adleybourne
driving up to her door. Mrs. Adleybourne's daugh-
ters were not present; but she had her only
son with her. He was her youngest child, had
inherited more than his mother's good looks, and
was the apple of her eye and her darling.
To speak the truth, he was, considering the way
he was brought up — idolised and petted — singularly
unspoiled. He had one of those naturally fine
dispositions that set at naught all the proverbs about
over-indulgence. His beauty was undeniable. He
had those large dark eyes that look out into the
214 ^ Brilliant Woman.
world very frankly and honestly, a clear dark com-
plexion with a fine healthy glow, and was tall,
well-made, elastic, and full of all the natural activity
of a healthy boy of his age — ten.
People used to say he was his father over again,
but to Mrs. Adleybourne he was simply himself;
and he was certainly not like his father, either in
appearance or manner, — a boy whose sunny expres-
sion and cheery manner made friends everywhere,
whereas his father had been a somewhat ponderous
man, whose health was too bad to admit of much
cheerfulness, and who had never had the talent of
making friends. Charley Adleybourne had been
taken to-day by his mother, because she especially
wished to mark her feeling about Mrs. Burlington's
mother, and she intended to say something — if she
could do so — about not having brought her daughters.
Mrs. Hutchinson hastened down to receive her,
and soon found that the visit was not wholly com-
plimentary or disinterested.
The Meaning of the Word " Thankfulness. " 215
" I want you to come with me, Mrs. Hutchinson, **
said Mrs. Adleyboume, with an attempt at careless-
ness, thinking that she was not betraying her
" It would be a good opportunity, certainly. The
Duchess has just passed, " answered Mrs. Hutchinson,
fully aware of all that meant.
"Yes; under her wing as it were, the county
could take no exception to the presence of that
person, or rather to my meeting that person. When
it was known that the Duchess was present, I should
not mind. " She spoke as if each of her actions
was of immense importance, which was, indeed, what
she believed herself.
" Now you see why I want you to come. "
" Yes, I see, " said Mrs. Hutchinson. " Well, I
do not mind going again, though I was there
** And did you see the — creature?"
*No; I saw no one but the Burlingtons. *
2 1 6 A Brilliant Woman.
"Mrs. Burlington subdued, I suppose?"
" I certainly did not think so. "
" How extraordinary ! "
" Some people never take a lesson. I expected
to find her a little less aggressive ; not quite
as pleased with herself. She was just the same ;
only I think she was more careful not to say
"Ah, depend upon it, her manner, if it remains
the same, is only put on to hide her real feelings.
Let us go."
The two ladies went, and drove up the avenue
through the fine park, too much absorbed by their
anticipations to notice the splendid autumnal dress
of the horse chestnut trees, or the soft beauty of the
maples in their gold and crimson dresses. When they
arrived Mrs. Burlington was talking to an elderly
lady, and the Duchess was not anywhere in sight.
Mrs. Burlington received them with the same
brilHant smile as of old. She did not name her
The Meaning of the Word " Thankfulness. " 217
visitor, and Mrs. Adleybourne at once conjectured
it was the mother. This was terrible without the
Duchess ! The lady, after a moment or two, made
a well-bred attempt to enter into conversation with
the new comers, and was met by singular silence,
and a look of great astonishment. Mrs. Adleybourne
was so irritated at her venturing to address her that
she was simply as rude as she dared to be under
Mrs. Burlington's eyes. That lady instantly hurried
forward and conveyed the stranger away from her
with marked respect. Evidently "the creature,"
thought Mrs. Adleybourne.
Then one of the few people present ventured to
ask Mrs. Burlington whether the Duchess had called.
** Yes, she came here for a moment on her way
to see my mother, " answered Mrs. Burlington, with
very real unconsciousness. She did not in the least
know that her words were of any importance, or
that there was a sort of quiver of anxiety in the
minds of two or three present.
2i8 A Brilliant Woman,
Mrs. Adleyboume heard, and felt a little sorry,
not that she had been rude, but that she had been
rude to the wrong person. Then Mrs. Hutchinson
came up to her in a state of excitement. " Have
you heard ? Do you know that Lady Dorothy
Saville is here ?"
" No ! How I should like to make her acquaint-
ance ! Such a celebrated woman. It is really very
interesting. I daresay she is with the Duchess."
At that moment her Grace appeared, accompanied
by a dark-eyed, graceful figure draped in black
lace, with hair which was snowy white, and sparkling,
wonderful, beautiful eyes.
Before Mrs. Adleybourne had time to cross the
lawn and pay her respects, her little boy had run
up to the two ladies. He was always delighted to
have a few kind words from her Grace, who was
fond of children. He stood beside her, and his
bright, beaming face won the heart of her companion.
She stooped and kissed him. Mrs. Adleyboume
The Meaning of the Word " Thankfulness.'" 219
was immensely pleased. She was overjoyed that
so spontaneous a mark of favour should be given
to her idol in the sight of all the world by so
great a lady. As soon as she could, she went
up to the Duchess and paid her respects in her
most genial manner. Then with a slight hesitation
she looked at the white-haired and lovely woman
beside her, and said, " As your friend so kindly
noticed my boy, I hope you will be so very good
as to present me to her also."
The Duchess was pleased. She never for a
moment imagined that Mrs. Adleyboume did not
know who this was, and she thought merely the
two happened not to have met before.
Turning to her friend, she said, " Dear Mrs.
Kingson, Mrs. Adleyboume wishes to be made
known to you."
Mrs. Adleyboume nearly had a fit! She hardly
heard Mrs. Kingson's gentle voice. *A friend of
2 20 A Brilliant Woman.
She lost her presence of mind, and after gazing
at the figure before her for one awkward moment
she turned and fled! A little later on, as she was
trying to find her little boy and go away, she was
much amazed to find him close to Mrs. Kingson,
who was explaining in a pretty, fanciful way the
meaning of some flowers she held on her lap.
Never had the boy been so called by his idolising
mother. Her voice rang out so sharply that he
positivel}^ started. Without saying " farewell " to
any one, save a very frigid " good-bye " to her
hostess, Mrs. Adleyboume departed, basely deserted
by Mrs. Hutchinson, who, as she would have
expressed it, under the Duchess's wing, ventured
not only to make the acquaintance of, but also to
be very civil to Mrs. Kingson.
Maria noted it all with acute annoyance. She
felt it more than her mother did. There comes a
time in life when these things cease to wound, or
even to surprise. Mrs. Kingson had gone through
The Aleaning of the Word " Thankfulness.'" 221
so much that the rudeness of a woman like Mrs.
Adleyboume had no power to vex her, and she
did not realise how intensely her daughter felt it.
Maria paced her room that night in a fever of
indignation. She did not put her prayer into words,
but had she done so it would have been to the
effect that, if this matter could be put right, she
would accept trial in any other shape. Mr. Bur-
lington, who had noticed that his wife was disturbed,
went to find her, hoping to be able to soothe her
and to get her to look at the brighter side of the
" You do not know what it is ! " she said,
sobbing; "it does seem so hard, so cruelly hard."
" I can feel your sorrow, my darling, but you
frighten me; you will make yourself ill again, and
what is the good of making yourself so wretched?"
" Any other trial, anything to right her in the
eyes of the world!" she exclaimed vehemently.
Any other trial. How in the near future these
A Brilliant Woman.
words came back to her with the saddest significance !
Time went on. The autumn became winter, and
while the snow still lay on the ground, thejoybells
rang from the neighbouring churches, and a son and
heir was bom, to the delight of all who wished well
to the Burlingtons. Aunt Anne and Mrs. Kingson
were equally charmed, and Mrs. Burlington's cup
of happiness was full to overflowing. She watched
her mother with the baby in her arms, and saw
the happiness all round her, and felt as if the
meaning of "thankfulness" had never come home
to her before.
ABOUT A CERTAIN LUNATIC.
The Ber}'ls had most sincerely rejoiced in Mr. Bur-
lington's renewed happiness, being much more inter-
ested, as a matter of co urse, in Mr. Burlington
than in his wife.
Xo after explanations, perhaps, ever entirely obli-
terated one ver}' great mistake. There is always
that unpleasant sense of ha\Tng misjudged or of
being misjudged, and when any episode in the past
has to be avoided there is very naturally a constraint
which must always be a bar to complete intimacy
2 24 ^ Brilliant Woman.
But the situation with regard to those painful
family matters remained unchanged with the Beryls.
Mrs. Beryl was hopelessly insane, and the one com-
fort was that she was always very gentle and never
But as her insanity took the form of melancholia
it was inexpressibly saddening for her husband to
see her. She never recognized him, and sat perpe-
tually muttering "Lost! lost! lost!" her eyes fixed
on vacancy, taking small notice of her attendants
or of any one.
About this time Marcia Dorington came to the
conclusion that she ought to do something with her
life. Her position was different from that of many
girls. She had no parents living, no very near
relations, and she always thought the luxurious life
she led was not the right life for herself She was
enthusiastic, energetic, and possessed of many gifts,
She turned over very often in her own mind what
she could do, since her taking up any work did
About a Certain Lttnatic,
not mean neglecting home duties she had not got
to perform. What people carelessly call chance
determined her, and sent her into a groove from
which, had it been proposed to her some time be-
fore, she would have shrunk back.
It so happened that, walking by herself one day,
she passed a cottage from which piercing shrieks
issued. Afraid that some one was being hurt, or
that help in some Avay was needed, she hurried to
the door, and knocked. She heard the shrieks con-
tinuing, and a plaintive voice trying to soothe
As she stood there the bright winter sun lighting
up her hair, and touching a large white boa she was
wearing, the cottage door was thrown violently
open, and a pale and frightened young woman
rushed out, followed by an elderly woman with dis-
hevelled hair, and the expression of a perfect fiend.
Inwardly much terrified, jMarcia had the presence
of mind to remain absolutely still. Much to her
VOL. III. I ^
2 26 A Brilliant Woman.
surprise, the poor mad woman began curtsying to '
her. "The angel," she muttered, "the angel!" \
She covered her face with her hand, and went j
back into the cottage. -
" She has never been as bad as this, " said the |
daughter. "I thought she would have killed me. j
I must go and get the doctor." \
" Are you not afraid of leaving her alone ? " asked I
" I cannot help it. I would be too frightened to '
stay another night with her," answered the daughter, j
who was, indeed, still trembling with the fright she '
had received. :
Marcia was not sure whether she herself was |
afraid or not, but an impulse made her say, "I ■
will stay with her, if you will not be very long." \
Hardly waiting to offer her thanks, the woman
hurried away, and Marcia then realised that she \
had deliberately promised what she might find it :
difficult to perform. \
About a Certain Lunatic. 227
However, she went in, resolved to do her best.
The woman, who was muttering to herself and
pacing up and down like a caged animal, stopped
short, and began once more to make those curtsies
which so embarrassed her. She was evidently ripe
for mischief, and very restless, only restrained by
something in the presence of Marcia, a new influ-
ence she was not accustomed to. Every now and
then she said, " Oh, those angry, angry voices.
Nothing drives them away. They are always there,
plotting and planning against me."
Marcia had no experience, and the woman's ges-
tures got more and more violent every moment. Then
— she never could account for it to herself satisfac-
torily — she began to sing. She had a very soft
pleasant voice of great power, but penetrating, and
very sweet. Her voice trembled a little at first,
but she rallied all her courage, and soon found no
The unfortunate woman dropped into a chair, and
2 28 A Brilliant Womaii. ^
gazed at her visitor spellbound. As she listened, ;
the terrible look of fury left her face, her features i
calmed, great tears welled in her eyes and rolled j
unheeded over her face, and she sat quiet, sobbing i
like a little child. Marcia went on singing, and '
when the doctor arrived he found her standing I
against the room door, and saw the extraordinary \
influence she exercised over the woman he had been I
attending some time, whose outburst he had feared, \
and whose removal he had been trying to arrange. !
Marcia knew Dr. Howe a little, but he had never i
heard her sing before. 1
Mrs. Cole, the poor mad woman, was subdued \
and quiet enough now; she was exhausted — partly \
by her violence, partly from crying; and the doctor i
and his assistant had no trouble in removing her. i
The adventure did not dwell long in Marcia's I
mind, and in a few days she had forgotten it. She :
was, therefore, surprised one day to receive a letter \
from Dr. Howe. He said that he was going to j
About a Certain Lunatic, 229
ask a great favour — he was going to make a very
earnest request. He was convinced that she was
one of the people who, most of all others — above
all others — had an extraordinary influence for good
on the insane, and he entreated her to come to his
asylum and try the effect of her voice on some of
the unhappy inmates, when she possibly could do
so. ]\Iuch as Marcia shrank from this idea, it seemed
to her — if her voice really helped to soothe and
comfort these poor afflicted beings — that it would
be wrong to shut herself out of a direct means of
doing good in that direction.
She thought it over very carefully, for if she began,
if she once undertook this thing, she must carry
it on. .
She agreed to go, and, after the first two or
three times, began to lose every fear, and to like
watching the effect of her singing on the poor
vacant faces. There were very few. There were
two separate buildings, in one of which were three
230 A Brilliant Woman. \
ladies ; in the other about six poor women for ■
whom some charitable people paid. One of the
ladies from the first took an almost inconvenient \
affection for Marcia, and she was so lovely, so ;
interesting in appearance, and had such refined ges- '
tures, so sweet and gracious a manner, that it was j
difficult to realize that she was insane. But there ;
was a terribly hopeless look in her eyes, and every
now and then she wrung her hands together, say- ■
ing, in a tone of despair, " Lost ! lost ! lost ! " No 1
names were mentioned. Marcia was full of the |
deepest compassion for this poor thing in parti- i
cular. Never had her voice sounded more sweet,
never had she thrown more of herself into her singing, \
than when, alone with this lady in her sitting-room,
she sang to try to charm away her melancholy. |
She had her reward. The settled look of sad- '
ness relaxed, the drooping lips took a new expres-
sion, and a faint smile — a smile of pleasure — flitted
across her mouth.
About a Certam Lztnatic. 231
" I love that, " she said gently. " Oh ! I love
that. It reminds me of something. What does it
remind me of?"
She leaned her face against her hand and thought,
but she found no answer. The habit of expressing
herself was no longer there. All at once a curious
gleam of intelligence seemed to come over her face.
" Ah, " she said, " I remember the name now.
Crabbrook. A pretty place ; trees and water and
much pleasure. Before I committed a crime I
lived there, and I was happy ! Now ... I am
lost ! " Her voice sank into the melancholy tone
once more^ and Marcia, her heart beating fast of-
fered to sing once more.
But the maid and another attendant advised her to
leave, because the poor lady was tired. As she bent
and kissed her, her kiss was returned with almost
passionate fervour, and then she said, clinging to
Alarcia's hand, " You will come again ? You have
done me good. When you sing I forget my crime. "
232 A Brtllia7it Wovian.
" I will indeed come again, and soon, " said
She was intercepted by the doctor, who was
waiting to thank her most earnestly. She stood
talking to him for a little while. He was a gentle-
man of high standing in his profession, who had
taken up the study of brain disease from sheer
love of helping those so terribly afflicted. Marcia
was longing to know— but shrank from asking —
whether she was right in believing that she had
been singing to Mrs. Beryl. As she was leaving,
the gate, which opened from the shrubbery into the
high road, swung back, and her question answered
itself, for she recognized in the growing twilight the
figure of Mr. Beryl, who overtook the doctor re-
turning from escorting Marcia so far, and she heard
him say something in an anxious voice about
his wife. Fate, then, had brought her to the side
of the poor girl who had had but a short spell
About a Certain Lunatic. 233
The Duchess was half annoyed, half proud, of
her friend's occupation, and Marcia had to use all
her argumentative powers to enable her to see that
she was receiving no harm and giving great
"I am so horribly afraid of mad people," said
" I used to be equally afraid, " answered Marcia,
and then she said no more.
The Duke gave Marcia right. " If you do not
mind doing it, it is a great thing for them, poor
things," he said, "but you must not fancy that all
asylums are like Dr. Trevanion's. At best it is
always a sad sight, but under his roof there is a
look of home that softens the necessary restraint.
By the way, I fancy one day you may see poor
Beryl's wife there. What a pretty creature she was !
but flighty, odd, and then took a deeply reUgious,
melancholy turn. Poor Beryl, what a sad, sad thing
it has been for him ! "
234 ^ Brilliant Woman,
Then the Duchess saw Marcia's face.
" She has seen her," she said to herself, and
immediately she changed the conversation.
But after this she made no further effort to keep
Marcia from going there. wShe knew by that wo-
manly intuition that enables one woman to under-
stand the motives of another that it was a comfort
and consolation to Marcia to do a kindness, to be
of any use, however little, to Mr. Beryl's wife.
THE ATTITUDE OF THE COUNTY TOWARDS
Time went on, and, but for the marked rudeness
of Mrs. Adleybourne, Mrs. Burlington's mother had
made her way with most people. The situation had
changed a good deal. It was not so much a ques-
tion of who intended to know her and be her friend,
as whom she wished to see. Always retiring, and
difficult of approach, the little lady found her cottage
constantly besieged by visitors, some of whom did —
and more did not — find her at home. Old friends
from a distance came to see her, and, but for the
incessant reminder Mrs. Adleybourne and Lady
236 A Brilliant Woman.
Bridstone kept up, Maria felt as if all would, indeed,
All but— there was one other but. Mrs. Kingson
herself never forgot. Those who were very friendly
she received, but she never returned a visit; she
never went anywhere, except to her daughter's
house, and there she never allowed anyone to be
introduced to her.
Maria argued, blamed, coaxed her; all in vain.
" No one shall ever have it in their power to say
that they were obliged to know me. People are
kind; be content with their kindness; the position
I have taken up is the only one, darling; and it
does not affect yours. I thank God daily for all the
blessings I see you surrounded by. Be thankful
with me, dearest!"
" But when I see" .... and then Maria stopped
short. If her mother had not noticed the very rude
way in which that child of Mrs. Adleyboume's had
been called away from her mother's side as if her
Attitude of the County towards Mrs, Kingson. 237
nearness might contaminate him — if her mother had
not noticed this, why tell her about it?"
Afterwards, Maria bitterly reproached herself for
having been so unduly eager, so intensely anxious
to hurry events; but all impetuous natures find
waiting their hardest and most difficult task, and in
those days to come she thought with keen remorse
of her constant — her unspoken — but never-failing
prayer; at any cost, anyhow, to see her mother
righted, to see her honoured and appreciated as she
deserved to be! The spring came as spring does
not always come in " merry " England. The sun
shone royally, and the east winds were disporting
themselves elsewhere; and that favoured part of the
country surrounding Burlington Manor was full of
exquisite early wild flowers, and the woods round
the manor were blue with wild hyacinths. Baby
was supposed to know, to discriminate, and to
appreciate each flower as it came out, and to be
especially charmed with wild sorrel, wood anemones,
238 A Brilliant Woman.
and other treasures, because the strong baby fists
clutched them so firmly. The sagacity and preco-
ciousness of a first-bom is always a remarkable
feature in natural history. Every smile is supposed
to have a deep meaning, every gurgle to be an
effort at intellectual speech, every murmur to be
expressive of some sentiment, as a rule understood
only by the devoted mother or the doting nurse,
and conveying nonsense to the less gifted parent
of the masculine gender.
It was delightful to Mrs. Kingson as to Mr. Bur-
lington to see Maria playing with her baby; un-
wearied in her efforts to win its laughter, and showing
the loveliest side of her character in her unselfish
forgetfulness of being either hot or tired.
Full of happiness, and full of life, her eyes spark-
ling with fun, her playful gestures full of unstudied
grace, she made a lovely picture always.
Her husband thought so, especially one day when
county business had detained him one afternoon,
Attitude of the County towards Mrs. Kingson. 239
and he joined them in a distant wood skirting the park
wall — a wood famous for fir cones as for the great
variety of the \vild flowers. It was still and warm, and
when baby had grown a little tired Maria sat down
on some thick rugs borrowed from the pony carriage,
and let her darling nestle down and sleep upon her lap.
Aunt Anne paced up and down with Mrs. King-
son. There was that touch of melancholy upon the
spirits of Maria's mother which is not uncommon
after unusual merriment ; a shadow had come over
the bright, speaking face, and to Miss Burlington's
great surprise she spoke very unreservedly of her
past and of the present.
Miss Burlington was surprised because she herself
was reserved, but she was gratified by the full
appreciation Mrs. Kingson showed for her son-in-law.
" He is so good. He is more than good, and he
is the person above all others for my child! When
I think of my own sufferings, at my own impatient
folly, I feel now that I have nothing left to wish
240 A Brilliant Woniaji.
for — as if I had been forgiven — since my past has
not been visited upon her. That was my dread !
You cannot, perhaps, understand me, but I feel so
ready to go! Sometimes I long for the end! "
" You suffer so much ? " asked Aunt Anne, full
of ready sympathy.
" Yes ; I suffer. I was afraid of leaving her before
I prayed for life, at any cost to myself. Now, I
should be so content, so glad, that all is well with
her, and that I may go in peace! "
Aunt Anne had no words ready. Such calm,
such a wonderful expression had come into Mrs.
Kingson's face that she thought of a favourite pas-
sage of hers, where the expression of a human face
is said to have the look of one who might have
been talking with the angels. The conversation was
interrupted by an appeal from Mr. Burlington, a
distant landmark was in question, and Aunt Anne
was asked whether he was not right in saying that
it was the highest ground in Worcestershire.
Attitude of tke CouMfy iMmards Mrs. Kingsan. 241
She went to his side; and MrSw !Ki^soo used a
^jwiring- path gping' up thr^
and ir.r: ihr : ' : :
— w— . „*s.
^ nt gal-
*^ - — ^ — r
caHing to ihe
h :i - :: it
tfarown just as shr ^:: .:':
dr^^-^-^i —t:: : ■ nly two or dnee ^ri
? -: r '- :re road wasne-'v r-.r:.C'f-.i aiid Mrs,
VOL m. 16
242 A Brilliant Woman.
of what might have been. The child was Mrs.
Adleybourne's idolised son. Mrs. Adleybourne had
barely strength to speak w^hen she drove up. She
sat on the roadside, her boy in her arms, tears
pouring over her face, so completely unhinged, so
terribly overcome, that Mr. Burlington put the whole
party into the carriage, and sent them up to the
house, Mrs. Kingson, silent, still, as ever, holding
herself under complete control, and passively allow-
ing Mrs. Adleybourne to shower kisses upon her
hands and to hug her child alternately. When they
reached the house Mrs. Burlington w^as already
there, and Mr. Burlington lifted Mrs. Kingson in
his arms, and, much to his wife's surprise, carried
her straight up to his wife's sitting-room and gave
two orders at once. Her maid was to be brought
at once with the usual restoratives, and the doctor
was sent for.
"Is my mother ill?" asked Maria, rushing upstairs
Attitude of the County towards Mrs. Kingsoii. 243
" You must try to be calm for her sake, dear.
No one can do what she did with impunity."
" And for that woman ! " she murmured.
" Oh, do you know her so little ? " he said, his
eyes full of Hght and moistened with emotion. " For
that very reason she will all the more rejoice."
Maria, full of vague fears, went to her mother.
Her fears vanished as she looked at her. Her face
was so sweet, so calm. She was apparently sleeping.
When her maid came she roused herself, and
spoke, asking for Cyril. " I want to thank him, "
she said, softly ; " and I want ..."
Her maid and the doctor knew what she wanted :
and in a short time the old priest who had been
her fast friend came to her. The night passed so
swiftly that Maria was startled by the dawn. When
the sunrays came in Mrs. Kingson opened her eyes ;
once more she murmured, "Thank you," as she
pressed Cyril Burlington's hand, and then she asked
Maria to kiss her. "I am weary," she said, "and
244 ^ Brilliant Woman.
am going to sleep." Those were her last words.
She died as she had lived, acting up to her sense
of duty. She had made great mistakes, but she had
suffered much; and when Maria heard the way in
which her mother was spoken of she felt as we
sometimes do when we have impatiently longed for
the realisation of a wish, that it comes when its
value is overshadowed by the manner of its coming.
Never was a single word uttered against the memory
of the brave woman who had risked and lost her
life in saving the child of a woman who had stood
aloof and done her what harm she could. The les-
son so terribly given was not lost on Mrs. Adley-
OVER THE FLOWER-BEDS.
Mr. Beryl, in his periodical visits to his unfortu-
nate wife, was always puzzled by her repeated
statements of the angel that she maintained came
and sang to her. It was a blessed change of thought.
At first he had taken little notice, thinking it merely
one of the hallucinations which took various forms.
But her persistence made him feel that there was
something more in her reiteration than usual, and
he asked the attendant whether any lady went to
" A lady comes to see all the patients very often, "
246 A Brilliant Woman.
she answered. " The doctor has never mentioned
her name, but she has a remarkable voice, and
when she sings they are all quieter. I don't know
quite how to explain it, but it has a particular sound ;
I am myself always struck by it."
" How was it she came here ? "
"I really cannot tell you, sir. The doctor heard
her sing somewhere, and he asked her to come
" I wonder where he met her ? "
" I have no idea, sir ; I never heard him say ; but
I know that there is something soft in her voice
that quiets the patients."
Mr. Beryl asked no more; but when he next saw
the doctor he began to talk about it, and asked the
name of the lady who exercised such a mysterious
influence, expressing at the same time his gratitude
to her. His wife seemed so much better, he
The doctor looked at him curiously. " We do
Over the Flower-heds. 247
not think Mrs. Beryl so well lately," he answered.
" No ! She seems so much less excitable. "
"She has less strength to show it."
Mr. Beryl was silent. How many years this
terrible position has lasted ! Was life a desirable
boon for her? For though lately so quiet, so gentle,
there were terrible moments and terrible scenes to
look back upon. AVhen driven to despair the mo-
notonous cry of " Lost " had been a relief after the
anguish and acute alternative fits of madness that
rendered restraint necessary.
" Is there anything in the world, doctor, I can
do ? Is there anything I have left undone ? "
" There is nothing. There is this improvement,
if we dare call it an improvement. Your wife is
happier; she shows less signs of melancholy; but
she confuses people. She used to think herself in
Paradise, and talking to the angels. There has
been a great influence for good in the visitor she
248 A Brilliant Woynan.
He was so evidently resolved not to name that
visitor that Mr. Beryl could not ask him farther.
It so happened, however, that the very next time
he went to the asylum he had to go earlier than
usual, and he was shown into the doctor's sitting-
room, which was in communication with the rooms
devoted to the two or three ladies who were under
his care. Then he heard the voice, and recognized
it only too well. It was the voice of Marcia Doring-
ton. It was like her to come and help these
unhappy people ! Did she guess — did she know
who that poor fragile girl was, with the sad eyes
and the perpetual despair?
The voice in all its exquisite sweetness came
floating towards him. He was quite amazed, and
without waiting to see the doctor — afraid of meeting
Marcia, whom he had not seen for so long — he
slipped away, and breathed more freely when he
got out into an unfrequented lane, where his pained
memory, all the anguish of his position, struck him
Over the Flo7ver-beds. 2^g
afresh; and the battle he had fought in olden times
had to be fought over again. How long it was
since he had seen Marcia? Was it months or years?
He went to London, and busied himself in all the
occupations in which a man with the gift of writing
cleverly spends his time. And the reports from the
asylum followed him there. His departure was a
great relief to the Duchess, who was one of those
people who, having an affectionate heart and no
particular sorrows or anxieties of her own, was very
apt to make herself miserable about those of her
" ^larcia is really very tiresome, " she said to the
Duke one day.
"Now, do sympathize a little with me. 'Is she,'
is not sympathizing at all."
"Is it not? What do you want? a contradiction
or an echo; if I said, 'She is very tiresome,' what
a rage some one would be in. "
250 A Brilliant Woman.
" I should think so ! " said the Duchess with much
"Here is that poor unhappy man writing again.
]\Iy dear, he is very much in love ! "
" They all seem to be very much in love, " said
the Duke placidly. " That is the worst of having
an attractive young lady with you."
"I am sure dear Marcia does not try to attract
" That is exactly one of her greatest merits. "
"I am very sorry for the man. Are you not a
little sorry for him also?"
"My dear child, you have not named him. In
the abstract, I am sorry for all men ; but to sympa-
thize with an individual man one must have some
vague idea who he is."
"Sir Charles Oakley."
" Sir Charles, dull, elderly, prosaic, and with a wig.
My dear, I am not sorry for him at all. He is very
presumptuous. Commend me to female friendship
Over the Flower-beds. 251
if you think that man good enough for Marcia!"
" But I do not ! Of course not ! I never dreamt
of her marrying him ; but I am sorry for him, because
I think he is desperately in love."
" He is desperately in love with himself. "
"Then why does he persist in wanting to marry
Marcia ? "
"Because as I have heard him say he has the
best house, the best cook, the best horses in London ;
and he wants the best wife."
"Then I am glad he cannot have her. All the
sa,me, I wish dear Marcia had a home of her own,
and definite things to do. I do so dislike the way
she goes to that asylum."
"I suppose some one has been ill-natured."
" Yes ; someone hasbeen ill-natured ; not Mrs. Adley-
boume. Ever since poor Mrs. Kingson's death she
has never said a single ill-natured thing of anyone. "
"Then I know who it is — Lady Rhodes."
The Duchess nodded.
2^2 A Brilliant Woman. \
"Things said to me I can answer; but no one \
ever says these things to me. I do not know why. " \
The Duke thought he did know. \
" How pleasant it is to see Mrs. Burlington now. ;
She is always the same, so bright and so original, " j
said the Duchess presently. -
" Yes. wShe has a bright way of saying the very
commonest things. It does one good to see Burling- i
ton's happiness. He went through a good deal." \
"And the question is whether, if they had not ;
gone through a good deal, they would ever have |
discovered how much they cared for each other.
I think eventually it must always come out." ;
" If it is there, " said the Duke, laughing at her. !
"Now the election is coming on, I wonder if !
Mrs. Burlington will become aggressively political j
" I am quite certain that she will be aggressive i
in nothing," said the Duchess firmly; by which it ,
may be seen that the two ladies had foregathered ;
Over the Flozver-beds. 253
since the first acquaintance had been made, and
had indeed become friends.
The election soon turned the county into the
usual state of feverish excitement. People bowed
gravely where one week before they had cordially
shaken hands, and the usual stories floated about
concerning election speeches with the customary
bitterness. It is always a matter for regret that on
these occasions so much of that bitterness can be
traced to the women of the various families. Why
the partisanship should engender so much of this
feeling is always an unsolved problem, and a problem
never likely to be solved.
Wives not perhaps noted for conjugal affection
at other times now quote their husbands, or, perhaps,
misquote them; fancied slights are exaggerated into
matters of real offence, and nothing, perhaps, shows
human nature so completely at its worst than a
Mr. Burlington had sincere convictions and the
254 ^ Brilliant Woman.
support of the larger part of the country gentlemen ;
but he was quite able to believe that his opponents
were equally sincere.
" How can a man act contrary to his convictions, "
he said, laughing one day. " Do let us give our
opponents credit for this much honesty ! "
" Oh, those fellows haven't it in them to be
honest " was the answer, and this was the feeling
It was while things were at fever heat that Mrs.
Adleybourne went to Burlington Manor at an
unusual time (before luncheon), and sent an apology
and an entreaty that Mrs. Burlington would see her.
Maria was in the flower garden, superintending
the laying-out of some new beds, and she imme-
diately joined her visitor.
" I hope nothing is wrong, " she said, as she saw the
disturbed countenance of the ponderous lady before her.
" Everything is wrong, " said Mrs. Adleybourne
very solemnly, and she sighed deeply.
Over the Floiver-beds. 255
Maria was concerned. She pulled off her garden-
ing gloves, and sat down prepared to listen and
" I need not tell you, Mrs. Burlington, that I
have done my very best, I have done my utmost,
to help your husband. "
" You are very good. "
" No ! it is only a small thing. I have written to
all my tradesmen ; I have hunted up everyone I
could think of. And I made sure of one person;
I made certain of Sir Harvey Bridstone. My dear
Mrs. Burlington, if his wife would only leave him
alone! But she won't; and all I say, all I plead,
does not effect her in the least. She answers always
in the same way. Sir Harvey must vote for the
Opposition. It is quite abominable of her ! "
"But if he thinks it right?"
" But that is exactly what he does not do ; he
owns as much ! Lady Bridstone wrote a pamphlet,
and put her views forward. Well, because she has
256 A Brilliant Woman.
done this, she says Sir Harvey is bound to back
her up. So the poor man is to have no views of
his own. I was so furious with her that I gave
her my mind very freely."
"Dear Mrs. Adleybourne, pray do not distress
yourself. I shall be very glad if my husband wins,
but I sometimes think no victory is worth all the
ill will and disputes that it engenders. I remember
when I first married I made Lady Bridstone very
angry because I said frankly, I had no political
convictions. I am afraid my convictions simply
consist in thinking everything right my husband
approves of. I have neither read much nor thought
much about politics, and it is inconceivable to me
that differences of opinion which must always exist
should cause so much ill feeling. Will it ever die
away; shall we ever all be friends again?"
" My dear, " said Mrs. Adleybourne. " I never
wish to be friends again with people who have
such wrong ideas ; an election is the test ; the test.
Over the Flower-beds. 257
No; we are not made alike, but when people deli-
berately, with their eyes open, choose to see their
country going to the dogs and trusting our cherished
institutions to the hands of a set of Radical
Then Mrs. Burlington saw that arguments were
"Let us leave politics to men who understand
them," she said, rising, and speaking in her most
winning way, " and let me show you my new
flower-beds. No one understands the massing of
colours together as well as you do."
It was no insincere compliment. Mrs. Adley-
boume stayed on to luncheon, and when she
finally drove away she left a good deal of her
bitterness in those flower-beds, and left more charmed
than ever with the fascinating mistress of Bur-
VOL. III. 17
The election was over. Mr. Burlington had a large
majority, and was perhaps more surprised at this
than anyone else. April was over. It had wept
itself out and May (not the May of the sad, sunless
type) had set in. An ideal, poetic, sunshiny month
that rejoiced every one, brought out those myriads
of insects the birds rejoice in, and called forth the
rich, mellow songs from the thrushes and blackbirds
we hear with a never-ending content.
In the very middle of the election when everyone's
attention had been fixed upon that great event, a
hasty summons had brought two people who had
not met for long years into the presence of Mrs.
Beryl — her husband and Marcia Dorington.
Mrs. Beryl was dying, and for a day or two
before her death her clouded intellect had cleared,
as it so often does at the last.
She did not quite know where she was, and she
was surprised that her husband was not there. Her
mind went back to her last conscious time at home
in a manner inexpressibly affecting to those two,
who knew how the intervening years had been
She took up the thread as if it had never been
broken, receiving her husband kindly when he
arrived as if they had only just parted, and wonder-
ing what brought Marcia there.
" The lady who sings to you," said the doctor.
Mrs. Beryl made no answer. She looked puzzled,
and, passing her hand over her head, she said, "I
have been ill, and I feel weak."
26o A Brilliant Woman.
Her husband could not speak. He knelt down
beside her, and held her hand.
"Shall I go, or shall I stay?" asked Marcia,
most anxious not to be in the way.
" Pray stay, " said the doctor, earnestly.
All at once Mrs. Beryl said, " It is so sad. Now
I am well the voice has stopped, and I loved it.
I wish, I wish, I could hear it again ! "
Mr. Beryl for the first time looked imploringly
Nothing had ever cost poor Marcia so much.
She covered her face for a moment and then began
to sing in a low and nervous manner, but by degrees
the effort brought its own courage as reward, and
her voice, soft, clear, penetrating, filled the room.
"You hear," said Mrs. Beryl softly to her hus-
band. Then memory rushed back to her, and she
said, " Now I know, now I understand. " She drew
her hand away from her husband's and joined the
two hands together.
She closed her eyes, and then opening them
suddenly, said : " It has been hard for you, and you
will be lonely. I will ask my angel to stay and
sing to you also ! She drew Marcia's hand towards
her face and pressed her cheek upon it. Then
slowly she put it into her husband's. Be good to
him, " she said ; " you have been very good to me ! "
She again closed her eyes, and Marcia left the
room and the house and went home.
Afterwards the doctor told her that she had asked
him to leave her alone with her husband, and in
the early morning she died, very calmly and very
Mr. Beryl sent her a few books and a ring,
which he said his wife wished her to have, and
added that he was going to travel. Might he write
to her sometimes, and would she answer his letters ?
To his request Marcia could give but one answer.
She went to London, but she did not go out, save
to a few intimate friends. The scenes she had
2 62 A Brilliant Woman.
lately witnessed had saddened her too much.
Maria found herself in a pretty house in London,
as she had once dreamt of being. She was consi-
dered very brilliant, very fascinating, but she made
no eifort to shine, which was probably why her
merits were so widely recognized.
Lady Rhodes was never able to resist planting
a sting if she could, but she never succeeded in
making her unhappy. Indeed, where happiness
depends upon home, and not outside influences, it is
difficult to touch it, however keenly an outsider
may wish to do so.
Perhaps next to Mrs. Burlington the person Lady
Rhodes objected to most was the kind-hearted
Duchess of these pages. Her Grace one day made
a speech — most innocently — that Lady Rhodes never
forgave her for. " It is so nice of me and it is so
nice of you, Lady Rhodes, to be so fond of Mrs.
Burlington, because, whenever she is present, we
are quite extinguished ! She is so much more
brilliant than we are. " Words failed Lady Rhodes
on that occasion, but she never forgave it. Aunt
Anne often looked back to that expression of Cyril's
which had so disturbed her. She was almost more
than anyone the great champion of all Maria thought
— of all she did.
There is Uttle left to say about the brilliant woman
of this story. That she was one of those whose
individuality sets a mark on all she touches is true ;
but when this power — and it is a power — is used
to enhance the happiness of her children, of her
husband, and her home, who can take exception to it ?
Mrs. Burlington would always be a centre of
attraction. She had the knack of in vesting everyday
things with a charm that made them far removed
from common-place ; and, though she never would
allow him to say it to her, her husband was con-
vinced that the extraordinary success that followed
his career was entirely due to his brilliant wife.